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North Pole notes (continued)

Filed under: — gavin @ 22 August 2008

This is a continuation of the previous (and now unwieldy) post on the current Arctic situation. We’ll have a proper round up in a few weeks.


638 Responses to “North Pole notes (continued)”

  1. 51
    dhogaza says:

    But more importantly, why is everyone so focused on this years ice extent being a little greater than last year’s?

    Partially curiousity, since last year’s record (and this year’s near-record) were unexpected. I mean, if you’re talking to the genuinely curious who accept science.

    On the denialist side, there’s an obvious interest in saying “2007 was meaningless, because 2008 was less bad!” (ignoring statistical analysis of long-term trends), and associated bullshit.

    After last year’s press on the issue, obviously one expects press interest this year.

  2. 52
    Stuart Jensen says:

    #48 Nick Gotts,

    I was struck by Hansen’s inclusion of Blees’s account of the Clinton decision to deep six the 4th Gen program 14 years ago. I’ve noted that any mention of nuclear causes almost everyone who thinks there is a need for urgency in addressing climate change to “go nuclear”. It’s like reading “the climate is always changing and Gore is fat” posts, or discussing biofuels with the only heir of an Iowa farmer. Makes me wonder who has a financial stake in specific alternative energy sectors. The reaction is positively carboniferous.

    More, it makes me wonder why alarm is nearly always expressed about 2nd Gen plants and fuel cycles, and doesn’t ever seem to deal with how 4th Gen addresses their concern. Partially I think it’s because “no nukes” has been mother’s milk to “the movement”, particularly in its American realization. Nuclear = bad is settled policy.

    Yes it’s wise to evaluate unproven claims skeptically, but, as Hansen points out, there don’t seem to be any deal breakers, and much potential.

  3. 53
    WhiteBeard says:

    # 50 weather tis better and # 51 dhogaza,

    Besides the desire to have a new “We’re No 1” foam hand to beat others over the head with, I’ve been keenly interested at the amount of recovery the annual system would make. I’ve concerns about a rapid acceleration in the rate of albedo loss.

  4. 54
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Stuart Jensen..Ok. I might have rather flipantly said “worlds energy problems sorted” in actuality as Hansen mentioned a raft of approaches is needed, with ‘nuclear’ being an important factor. Case in point..how may solar cells, wind turbines, hydro power stations, hot rock plants are needed to replace fossil fuels, not just repace them but to to meet the growing energy needs of the world in say 50 years time..to me..it clearly says nuclear must be a front runner in the fossil fuel replacement process..basic common sense! 2nd gen plants still need copious supplies of reliable water to cool the rods and their efficiency is still pitiful and the waste products will still be white hot radiaoactively in many hundreds of years time. They take a long time to plan ie feasibilty sudies, environmental impact studies, geo tech studies..etc..etc; and then to eventually build them. I’m sure if leading universities were given sufficient funds to nut out all the cobwebs in 4th gen nuclear technology we would get one off the ground within 5-7 years. I’ve noticed there are hundreds of respondants who say how things cannot be done but only a handful who actually innovate and find and develop ways so that what was a ‘ludocrous’ idea is finally accepted as revolutionary and a stroke of genious by the prev.scorned inventer.

  5. 55
    sean egan says:

    About nukes.
    Sodium spontaneously combusts in air. IFB reactors full of sodium and plutonium make a highly effective dirty bomb. A 911 or even a fire. Even generally competent operators screw up. Heard of the Windscale fire? Plus as it is sealed unit, you can not see what is inside. Unexpected cracks/leaks would be a problem to detect and fix. Any government could easily say its weapons grade material it was in the box, but really it had been transfered to other uses or partners. There are more examples of material diverted by governments than straight stolen.
    But governments would not lie about nuclear stuff – would they?

    There are reasons this stuff was cancelled in the 1990′s. There are no miracle solutions to energy production.

  6. 56
    Lauri says:

    RE 45 and some others:

    I’ve read a lot of discussion about whether sea ice area or extent is more important. Thinking of the qualitative change in arctic sea ice, I think most would agree that the possibility of an ice free arctic (not just north pole) is crucial. How about if the metrics was the ice area north of 80 degrees (or maybe 77)? That would focus the metrics on the crucial area. And, here, I guess, definitely ice area, not extent.

    This metric would leave out the more southern areas which always melt anyway almost completely. Concerning the discussion of this year’s total melt area vs. the minimum (compared to 2007), I would say that melting of the excess ice due to a colder winter is not all that important. That especially is the kind of ice that melts anyway and the melting is not in any way affecting the melt in more northern areas. I do acknowledge is slightly greater albedo because of this larger ice area, for some months.

    Additionally, thinking of the albedo effect, the time integral of ice area wouldbe quite interesting metric, too – perhaps scaled by sun angle (intensity of sun’s radiation).

  7. 57
    LG Norton says:

    The polar stern has just crossed the Northern Route of the North West Passage in 4 days at an average speed of 9 knots.

    Polar stern crosses NW Passage in 4 days

    They have not posted a weekly science report of the passage yet, but it will be found here.

    Polarstern weekly report location

    It should be an interesting read when it comes out.

  8. 58
    Nick Gotts says:

    “I’m sure if leading universities were given sufficient funds to nut out all the cobwebs in 4th gen nuclear technology we would get one off the ground within 5-7 years.” – Lawrence Coleman

    What makes you sure about that? Is Sean Egan right to say “4th generation” IFR nuclear plants are sodium-cooled and difficult to monitor? If not, why not? The nuclear industry and lobby, AFAIK, are not united behind these plants – why not, if they’re so full of promise? What would prevent a government diverting material from such plants to military use?

    Stuart Jensen, I’m not “going nuclear”, I’m asking questions. As I’ve said on this site several times, I don’t favour nuclear power, primarily because of its close connection with nuclear weapons, but I am open to persuasion.

  9. 59
    Hank Roberts says:

    On sea ice melting in the Arctic — assuming that the heat is being provided by somewhat warmer water entering underneath the ice, the people first able to see the results would be the submariners, right? Looking up from below, looking at the shape of the ice?

    And perhaps some surface change in elevation, slightly, across large areas, assuming ice is melting off below, the surface should settle down slightly — detectably?

    That should be happening long before the ice would start to break up and open water increase, wouldn’t it?

    Just curious asking about the pattern of changes expected. Oh, and, would this be expected to vary according to where warmer water is entering the basin?

    I don’t recall anyone coming up with a submersible that can drop below the ice, get carried by the current, and change its density if it gets hung up in the ice to drop down below the obstacle. Ought to be doable, I’d think. It’d have to hunt for thin ice or openings to rise up and send data, or else be able to drop down (or lower a speaker down) to the “deep ocean sound channel” level at which sound in some frequency ranges propagates over great distances and use acoustic signals.

    _____________
    Hertz, among

  10. 60
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hat tip to William Connolley (“Stoat”), a different and in some ways better Arctic sea ice chart (with link to download the sea ice data):

    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

  11. 61

    The nuclear industry and lobby, AFAIK, are not united behind these plants – why not, if they’re so full of promise?

    Existing types are full of actuality. I can’t speak for the industry but if I were it, I would be afraid oil-and-gas-taxing governments wanted to delay my expansion by making it contingent on the completion of very slow research by said governments.

    It should excite suspicion that questions of the kind this research is putatively meant to answer — how can nuclear power plants, and their waste, be entirely harmless to neighbours and entirely unhelpful to nuclear weapon seekers — are all lies by insinuation.

    The false insinuation is that the appearance of innocence on all three counts that has been shared, throughout all time to date, by PWRs, BWRs, Magnox, AGR, CANDU reactors, a small handful of prototype helium-and-carbon reactors, and another small handful of prototype sodium-cooled fast reactors is, somehow, just an appearance.

    But if you understand the conflict between governments’ fossil fuel interest and their duty to regulate nuclear power, you know that it can’t be just an appearance. If the civilian nuclear industry had anything to hide, no government would be slow in dragging it into the light. Quite the opposite: they routinely keep nuclear plants shut down without giving any adequate reason, e.g., Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Imported natural gas is expensive, both in lives — as at Skikda, Algeria — and in money, and it looks as if the Japanese government is getting some of the money.

    What would prevent a government diverting material from such plants to military use?

    The usual unannounced IAEA inspections, along with the technical advantages of using material from other sources.

  12. 62
    Nick Gotts says:

    #61 G.R.L. Cowan,
    I’m afraid that’s just more of the same nuclear lobby rubbish, and fails to answer any of my questions. The civilian nuclear industry in the UK at least has repeatedly been caught out trying to hide problems – and not by the government. Somehow, IAEA inspections don’t seem to have prevented India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and North Korea using nuclear power programs as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, and most people are not convinced they will prevent Iran doing the same.

  13. 63
    WhiteBeard says:

    #56 Lauri,

    If albedo alteration is the underlying issue, then it seems to me you’re correct in noting that the timeframe when relatively larger insolation reaches the surface is the period of most concern. I’ve been pondering for several days the plot for 2002 (partial) through the current season of Arctic ice extent from the International Arctic Research Center (IARC-JAXA) at the link Hank Roberts posted in # 60.

    From mid April to about a week after the June solstice, the majority of the period of highest insolation, the chart shows the area of ice coverage varying the least between years. Last year’s large excursion from previous seasons was yet to start. Only about the 1st of July and into the period of declining insolation, did 2007 show less ice than any of the most recent years.

    For the rest of the 2007 melt season, the reduced albedo camel’s nose stayed under the edge of the retreating ice and delayed refreezing during the building of a strong La Nina.

    There were a number of other contributing factors affecting ice reduction last year, and I haven’t seen yet any attempts to produce a synthesis that untangles all of the processes at work.

    One thing that seems obvious to me is that the area available for ice to form in the Northern Hemisphere during the cold season is restricted. The land area surrounding the Arctic Ocean and heat carried by the Atlantic Conveyor limit the southern extent of ice. The warm season’s northward progression of temperatures high enough for melting, simply has less ice to affect.

    I’d think the implication is that the loss of albedo from an earlier disappearance of seasonal snow cover may be of more immediately significant than similarly timed ice loss, at least until the we observe an earlier start of ice reduction along the continental edges. Then we’re really in for it.

  14. 64
    Hank Roberts says:

    > If the civilian nuclear industry had anything to hide,
    > no government would be slow in dragging it into the light.

    Somehow this does not seem like the same world I’ve been reading about. N. Korea? Iran?
    It’s the simple existence of large volumes of transuranic elements that’s the issue for the world.
    Of course we can imagine uses for them. Unfortunately so can people with shorter time horizons.

  15. 65
    S. Molnar says:

    By analogy with Godwin’s Law, I would like to propose Molnar’s Law: All climate-related comment threads eventually contain a discussion of nuclear power. Alas, by Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, I won’t get credit.

  16. 66

    Re #61

    It is not the government, greenies, or the nuclear industry that is stopping the expansion of nuclear power generation. It is the people. The man in the street does not want to have the next Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or Windscale [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield ] built in his/her neighbourhood.

    Nuclear power may be safe, but tell that to the marines :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

  17. 67
    GlenFergus says:

    #60:

    Does having real money on the outcome affect the quality of data presentation? But it’s a shame that he, like others, doesn’t zero-scale the y-axis.

    NWP, MODIS, low-res, Friday – looks open to me…

    G.

  18. 68

    I’m afraid that’s just more of the same nuclear lobby rubbish, and fails to answer any of my questions

    Your fear is groundless: what I wrote was my own independent understanding of the matter. You may not wish to share this understanding, but others will.

    … Somehow, IAEA inspections don’t seem to have prevented India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and North Korea using nuclear power programs as a cover for developing nuclear weapons …

    The analogy between pistons in cylinders and bullets in guns is apt. Well, with a little elaboration. Suppose most of our personal transport were by horse, and horses were heavily taxed, and cars began to, um, proliferate.

    Immediately, many persons on public stipends begin to worry that cars are being weaponized: modified to throw projectiles out of their cylinders when a fuel-air mixture is ignited in them, rather than peacefully pushing a captive piston.

    Car licensing therefore comes to include a requirement to declare one has no intention of doing such alterations, and submitting the cars to inspections to prove this.

    But guns also proliferate; usually in households that are entirely equestrian, but sometimes in households that also have cars. Someone like you therefore remarks that the inspections have not prevented the weaponization of cars.

    In Israel’s case, you say it even though no-one in that household has ever acquired a car, and in North Korea’s case, you say it although the householder asserts he has made a car but does not attempt to license it and is never seen driving it.

  19. 69
    Nick Gotts says:

    G.R.L. Cowan,
    You’re right with respect to Israel – apologies. However, your gun/car analogy is utterly absurd: the materials, skills and technologies for nuclear power and nuclear weapons are intimately related. Any state can leave the NPT at 3 months notice, so an excellent strategy for any state wishing to acquire nuclear weapons would be to set up a civil nuclear power programme, accumulate as much of the prerequisites of bombs as possible under that cover, then leave the NPT.

  20. 70
    A.C. says:

    #68 –That was a truly horrible analogy. If the point you are trying to make is that the proliferation of nuclear (peaceful) is completely different from nuclear (apocalyptic), why muddle it? The problem with your position is not a lack of apt analogies, it is a lack of recognition that the viability of both energy programs and weapons programs depend on mastery of the set of technologies behind refining and enriching uranium.

    You’d probably make a more hay if you went the MAD route and argued in favor of total proliferation of all the technologies germane to both kinds of programs.

    But ultimately, doesn’t MAD (and every other argument in favor of nuclear proliferation) fail to satisfy the same set of objections?

    “the general opinion is that most states are not in a position to safely guard against nuclear use, that (Kenneth Waltz) under-estimates the long-standing antipathy in many regions, and that weak states will be unable to prevent – or will actively provide for – the disastrous possibility of nuclear terrorism.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_proliferation

  21. 71
    pete best says:

    I notice that James Hansen is now with James Lovelock on nuclear power in his affirmation of 4th generation fast breeder reactors. I no doubt believe though that although they agree on the use of nuclear to replace coal and more besides I doubt that the scale of the problem can be tackled in time. I read somewhere that in order to tackle 1 GB carbon emissions we would have to build 15 nuclear plants per year for 50 years (in order to keep BAU going). Not likely I would suggest.

    Even if we have a solution we need to be able to ramp up in ways that we never have before, not even during WW2 perhaps.

  22. 72
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Pete, #71

    I guess you’re talking replacing the entire US generating capacity (~1000 GW).

    Building power plants is business as usual. They last how long? 30 years? 50 years? 70 years? The entire US generating capacity probably has been completely replaced in the past 50 year, so why would doing that again in the coming 50 years be an effort of WW2 scale?

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    So, how’s the Arctic looking these days?

  24. 74
  25. 75
    SecularAnimist says:

    Alastair McDonald wrote: “It is not the government, greenies, or the nuclear industry that is stopping the expansion of nuclear power generation.”

    There has been no expansion of nuclear power in the USA for decades because nuclear power is an economic failure, and investors don’t like to throw money away. Private industry simply won’t touch nuclear power unless the taxpayers underwrite all of the costs and all of the risks — and not only the risks of catastrophic accident, but the risks of economic loss.

    That’s why the nuclear industry has been demanding — and in recent years receiving — tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies before they will stick a shovel in the ground to begin building even one new nuclear power plant. (Meanwhile, Congressional allies of the fossil fuel and nuclear industries have been blocking renewal of even the meager investment and production tax credits for wind and solar, in an effort to set back the growth of these industries.)

    The fact is that none of the so-called “next generation inherently safe” nuclear reactors touted by the industry even exist. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found serious problems with every proposed design, and has approved none of them for construction.

    Fortunately there is no need whatsoever for any expansion of nuclear power. The USA has vast commercially exploitable wind and solar energy resources, that are more than sufficient to provide several times as much electricity as the entire country uses, with today’s technology — enough for all current needs and to electrify our transportation systems as well. Wind, concentrating solar thermal and solar photovoltaic electricity generation can be brought online much faster and at lower cost than nuclear generated electricity, and once the infrastructure for harvesting abundant, limitless, free wind and solar energy has been built, the generation of electricity produces zero GHG emissions, which is not true of the nuclear fuel cycle. And this can be done with none of the toxic pollution and grave dangers of nuclear power.

    Nuclear power is a dinosaur industry that should be relegated to the trash heap of technological history along with fossil fuels. Many gigawatts of wind and solar generated electricity will be online in this country before a single new nuclear power plant is built. I would not be surprised if some new nuclear power plants are built — or at least started — because of the industry’s powerful political connections. But every dollar spent on nuclear is a dollar wasted, a dollar that would be far more effectively spent on improving efficiency and deploying clean, renewable energy sources.

    [Response: I hate to encourage hugely off-topic discussions, but Amory Lovins' recent paper on this is pretty illuminating. - gavin]

  26. 76
    SecularAnimist says:

    G.R.L. Cowan wrote: “If the civilian nuclear industry had anything to hide, no government would be slow in dragging it into the light.”

    That assertion is not supported by the track record of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the USA. David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer who worked in the industry for 20 years before joining the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote this past February in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

    … Recurring lessons from the past consistently inform us that unless the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) undergoes major reforms, nuclear power will remain both riskier and more expensive than necessary.

    The NRC is the federal agency primarily responsible for establishing and enforcing safety regulations for nuclear power. It does the former well. It does the latter poorly. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has monitored nuclear power safety issues since the early 1970s. We have seldom argued that the NRC needed to raise its safety standards. Instead, we have almost always contended the safety bar provided appropriate management of risk, but that one or more nuclear plants was doing the limbo beneath it. Most of our efforts have been directed at getting the NRC to enforce regulations already on the books.

    Evaluations conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the NRC’s Inspector General (IG) confirm our perspective: These reports repeatedly identify inadequate enforcement of existing regulations by the NRC … the NRC’s own assessments of its regulatory meltdowns also repeatedly conclude that the majority of problems stem from inadequate enforcement of adequate regulations.

    For example, the NRC lessons-learned task force examined the regulatory failures associated with the near-accident at Davis-Besse in 2002 and made 49 recommendations for actions the NRC should take to prevent recurrences. Forty-six of these outlined ways to improve enforcement of existing regulations, while the remaining three dealt with upgrading the underlying regulations. The NRC’s lessons-learned efforts for Indian Point (New York), Millstone (Connecticut), South Texas Project, and other troubled nuclear plants provide similar findings–the regulations are not the problem, enforcement is.

    NRC’s inadequate enforcement has caused significant safety and economic problems. In its September 2006 report, “Walking a Nuclear Tightrope: Unlearned Lessons of Year-plus Reactor Outages,” UCS described the 36 times since 1966 that U.S. nuclear power reactors remained shut down a year or longer to restore safety levels eroded by accumulated violations. In these cases, it took an army of workers more than a year, and cost an average of nearly $1.7 billion, to bring the reactor back into compliance. Inadequate enforcement by the NRC allowed safety levels to erode over several years, resulting in unnecessarily higher risk to the surrounding communities during those years and higher cost to the owners.

    This situation certainly does not inspire confidence in any notions of a fast-track expansion of the USA’s nuclear power industry from the current 104 reactors to 150 or more, as proposed by at least one prominent politician — let alone the hundreds more that would be required to “replace” all coal-fired power plants.

    And again, even with hundreds of billions of dollars in public subsidies and the evisceration of safety regulations and opportunities for public review of new nuclear plant proposals, there is no way that buildup could be accomplished in the time frame needed to address global warming. Efficiency improvements and clean, renewable energy from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass can do the job. Nuclear power cannot do the job, nor is there any need for it.

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lovins’s paper is quite good. As usual.

  28. 78
    Colin Forrest says:

    Should we be revising our projections of when the methane hydrates start melting, with this faster scale removal of sea ice cover over the Arctic Ocean ?

  29. 79
    Arch Stanton says:

    Nature just had an interesting news feature overview of non-carbon electric sources. It includes assessments of each source’s potential contribution to the total mix. It is available w/o subscription:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080813/full/454816a.html

  30. 80

    … the viability of both energy programs and weapons programs depend on mastery of the set of technologies behind refining and enriching uranium …

    Energy programs do not depend on uranium enrichment. Britain’s first foray out of the weapons arena into civilian power didn’t require any isotopic separation at all, and neither does the scheme in the paper I link from my website.

    … your gun/car analogy is utterly absurd: the materials, skills and technologies for nuclear power and nuclear weapons are intimately related…

    Their relation is analogous to the relation between the materials and skills required to make (gun barrels, bullets, and propellants) and those required to make (engine blocks, pistons, fuel and air feed systems).

    That the relationship is fundamental doesn’t allow anyone to pretend that denying a region cars will effectively deny it guns, nor that allowing it cars will help it get guns, nor that its coincidental acquisition of both proves the cars were just a cover. Nor is there any incentive for foolish arguments along those lines.

    In the nuclear case, as you know, there is indeed such an incentive. (What is it?)

  31. 81

    #73 Hank,

    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png

    I’m not trying to predict this and I’m most likely wrong, but I would not be completely surprised if we get pretty darn close to last years melt.

    It will probably come out above, but I have a funny unscientific feeling about this. Not having good knowledge of the current ocean temps and currents the slope looks like it has some inertia.

    Will be interesting to see where it is in 3 weeks.

    Captha is being creative: ransom West

  32. 82
    pete best says:

    Re #72. No I am talking globally. We emit 8 billion tonnes of carbon per annum and in order to limit and then eradicate it we Prineton University developed a method of splitting this into 8 GB chunks of 1GB each. In order to eliminate 1GB of carbon we would need to erect 15 large nuclear stations per annum for 50 years and we still need to eradicate 7 GB more plus the 50% growth factor by 2030. In addition nucleari is not CO2 free is it!

  33. 83

    Re #74

    Hank,

    I’ve been watching http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm for some time now. Recently the three day average rate of ice loss fell to 43,000 sq km per day, but now it is back up at around 59,000 sq. km per day. This means that within two days the total extent could be less that the minimum in 2005, making this year’s melt at least the the second greatest. At this rate it will also take 20 days to exceed 2007 record. It just depends whether it keeps melting at that rate.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  34. 84
    Amanda Eldridge says:

    Global warming IS happening. These scientist need to look right in front of their faces and see that it is real; that it is happening. Stop trying to come up with excuses to make you seem smarter than the other scientists who can actually see whats really happening. And the sad part is; when the ice caps are a few minutes from collapsing and all of us are going to die, they’ll still make up other excuses.

    I’m a 13 year old girl. And it’s sad that I can see what is happening but these scientist that are supposedly brillant and can come up with a “logical” reason for the “mysteries” in the world can’t see whats right in front of their faces.

    By the time they actually will live up to the fact that they’re wrong and global warming is real, the polar bears, the seals, the penguins, all arctic animals and other animals all over the world, will be either extinct or there will only be a few of them left. Then they’ll leave our world FOREVER. Just because of these stupid scientist and humans who don’t care at all about them because they’re selfish.

    Yesterday, when I came on the internet I saw a story on aol. It said that a certain frog’s(i can’t remember the exact type)population was rapidly decreasing because of the warming climate. It said that the warming climate was causing a fungus to grow which was poisionus to the frogs. This really annoyed me because these frogs are suffering because of US! Us as in the human race. And because of us, this frog population will go extinct unless it adapts to the fungus and to the rising temperatures; which will take years that they don’t have.

    After reading that article last night, i thought about the previous winter. In Philadelphia, the winter wasn’t really cold at all. There was only about two or three weeks of actually winter. There was no real snow, only flurries which didn’t even stick to the ground. This is a very sad thought to think that my last real snowfall was when I was about my little brother’s age, 8; or maybe even younger. To think that in a few years, everyone might be able to wear shorts in the winter and not be cold at all is a really horrible thought to me. And if that would be normal temperatures in the winter, then could we even survive a summer? Again, we would have to adapt to hotter temperatures; which would take hundreds, maybe even thousands of years that we don’t have. Just think about the human time line, how long it actually took us to evolve to this; from chimpanzees and gorillas to modern homo sapiens like us; it took a long time to become what we are today.

    “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

    — Rachel Carson

  35. 85
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #83

    This means that within two days the total extent could be less that the minimum in 2005, making this year’s melt at least the the second greatest. At this rate it will also take 20 days to exceed 2007 record. It just depends whether it keeps melting at that rate.

    If we talk about melt rather than the arrangement of the ice this year is already firmly in second place by ~0.5 Mm^2.

  36. 86
    paulm says:

    I hope post 84 gets noticed.

    Scientist while pointing out AGW, are not shouting and harassing the powers that be enough.

    WE need more of you to stand up and be counted loud and clear!

    There needs to be more activism in line with that of Hansen. He is the only one that anyone really notices. Stand up and be noticed guys.

    This is a catastrophic situation.

  37. 87
    Timothy Chase says:

    The NSIDC update for today begins:

    August 25, 2008
    Arctic shortcuts open up; decline pace steady

    Sea ice extent is declining at a fairly brisk and steady pace. Surface melt has mostly ended, but the decline will continue for two to three more weeks because of melt from the bottom and sides of the ice. Amundsen’s Northwest Passage is now navigable; the wider, deeper Northwest Passage through Parry Channel may also open in a matter of days. The Northern Sea Route along the Eurasian coast is clear.

    Figure 1. Daily Arctic sea ice extent for August 24, 2008, was 5.47 million square kilometers (2.11 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1979 to 2000 average extent for that day. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Sea Ice Index data. About the data.
    —Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

    Overview of conditions…
    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews

  38. 88
    Nick Gotts says:

    #80 [G.R.L. Cowan],
    What utter rot you do talk!
    From the site of the FAS:

    “India’s nuclear weapons program was started at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Trombay. In the mid-1950s India acquired dual-use technologies under the “Atoms for Peace” non-proliferation program, which aimed to encourage the civil use of nuclear technologies in exchange for assurances that they would not be used for military purposes. There was little evidence in the 1950s that India had any interest in a nuclear weapons program, according to Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Under the “Atoms for Peace” program, India acquired a Cirus 40 MWt heavy-water-moderated research reactor from Canada and purchased from the U.S. the heavy water required for its operation. In 1964, India commissioned a reprocessing facility at Trombay, which was used to separate out the plutonium produced by the Cirus research reactor. This plutonium was used in India’s first nuclear test on May 18, 1974, described by the Indian government as a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”"

    Incidentally, I went to your website, but can’t find any paper such as you refer to. Maybe the information is buried somewhere in your paper recommending nuclear reactors in large land vehicles (!!!), but a quick scan suggested there’s hardly room to describe a scheme for proliferation-resistant nuclear power generation.

  39. 89
    CL says:

    84, Well said, Amanda Eldridge !

    What we are watching is a terrible tragedy. But I don’t think it is fair to put so much blame onto scientists. They are not all bad ! They’re often the first ones to notice the problems and tell the public. Often, the public doesn’t want to hear. IMO, the bad guys are the politicians, and the oil and coal and petrochemical industries, and the people who invest money in those companies. They don’t care about frogs or walruses, only profits.

    But everybody who drives in cars and flies in airplanes is making things worse…

    You tell ‘em ! It’s your future that’s being robbed.

    http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/overview.html?gclid=CPru6fD_qZUCFSAbEAodOE4Qjw

    http://www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2027

  40. 90
    Jack Mist says:

    #45 [Wayne Davidson]

    I can’t find anything in the literature, but I have a strong suspicion that ice at 0°C cools air faster than ice at subzero temperatures. At the melt-point it’s primed to absorb a sudden energy hit, using latent heat to become water.

    This could explain why the melt goes on, even though the air temperatures seem to be steady or falling. Cause and effect goes the other way – the continuing melt is reducing air temperature. Can anyone tell me when significant areas of ice in the Arctic and Greenland reached melt point? 1998 maybe? If so, this could explain the temperature “plateau” that the denialists get so excited about.

  41. 91
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Amanda, it’s posts like yours that give me hope. Thank you for your comment and please keep pursuing your interests in biology and climate science.

  42. 92
    pat neuman says:

    Re 86 – I did that (spoke up about climate change and hydrology in the Upper Midwest). As a result, my career as a hydrologist with NOAA National Weather Service ended. NWS has downplayed climate change for many years.

  43. 93
    Figen Mekik says:

    Wow Amanda (#84)! I wish more of my students were as clear in their thinking and as articulate in their expression as you are. Well said!

  44. 94
    Hank Roberts says:

    > everybody who drives in cars and flies in airplanes

    Well, the big immediate difference people can make is:

    – insulate their buildings, and
    – add a solar hot water booster on the sunny side.

    Those are really simple, immediate improvements anyone can do.

  45. 95
    CL says:

    Re 92, Commiserations, pat neuman, I also lost my job for speaking out, but it was the right thing to do. It was very tough, but no regrets. I kept my self-respect. I mean, just look at a few of these links…how can we be allowing this to happen ?

    http://www.well.com/user/davidu/extinction.html

  46. 96

    #83 Alastair, You need to study present ice thickness:

    http://seaice.bplaced.net/gfs.html

    Il looks like 2007 will be beaten, the high melt rates at cool temperatures are due to thin ice.

    #84 Amanda, my advice for young people is for them to lead the way, stay in shape, use bicycles for every need of single transport. I sympatize with your generation, but it need not do the same mistakes as the previous ones. There is also a need to go modern, electric in a real way, I suggest a study of what we can do, Look at previous generations great accomplishments, ie one example
    the minirail, once dreamed of at an old worlds fair, became a reality at another, then vanished, except for a few places…:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPZHQE14HRs

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rd9BE1fHjM

    Once upon a time…. There was a city within a city, with no cars…. 2 small little islands with 200,000 people visiting a day.

    Hank, and #90, Jack… True physics demands a search for balance, net heat energy accounting is needed. Gistemp Northern Hemisphere running average temperature is similar to the late 90′s, but summer ice coverage is similar to 2007, the warmest year in Northern Hemisphere history. There is no such thing as a graph trend forcing the outcome of ice extent, there is such a thing as a net accounting of a) How much ice volume melted, b) how much Heat is required to melt it and c) where did the heat come from?

  47. 97
    Jim Cross says:

    When I go to Cryosphere Today

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

    and run the 30 day animation for the N. Hemisphere, I am puzzled by what I see.

    The sea ice seems to form in large sheets and dissipate from one day to the next in various parts of the Arctic. One day there appears to be a lot of ice, the next day much less.

    Is this actually a reflection of what is happening or some kind of artifact of the imaging?

  48. 98
    Daryl Jones says:

    I wanted to see the current state of affairs in the north, so I spider-searched through the links. Here’s a good one for anyone interested.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    August 25: “Sea ice extent is declining at a fairly brisk and steady pace. Surface melt has mostly ended, but the decline will continue for two to three more weeks because of melt from the bottom and sides of the ice.”

  49. 99
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Pat Neuman ad CL, I’ve said this before and I say it again: Kudos and we need more people like you in all government agencies and even in the legislative and judicial branches. You did the right thing.

  50. 100

    Dear Amanda,

    You are right to be upset. My daughter is also very upset. It is often difficult to know what to do. Keep writing, reading, talk to your friends, remember to not waste resources. There are many of us fighting to try to preserve the planet for your future. The scientists are not to blame — they are trying to discover the truth of the matter, and some are trying to educate the general public. But it is not easy for them because there are many politicians and carbon-based energy companies lined up against the scientists.


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