30 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 30 September 2012
Images: NASA

Arctic Sea Ice: What, Why and What Next
Ramez Naam, SA blog, September 21, 2012
On September 19th, NSIDC, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, announced that Arctic sea ice has shrunk as far as it will shrink this summer, and that the ice is beginning to reform, expanding the floating ice cap that covers the North Pole and the seas around it.

Interactive map: Arctic sea ice concentration, 1984 and 2012

23 September 2012

Climate News

Week end 23 September 2012


ACT government seeks 90% renewables by 2020
Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy, 19 September 2012
The ACT government has outlined an ambitious plan to source 90 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2020, with solar, wind and energy efficiency at the centrepiece of its strategy.

Four-degree rise demands 90-degree rethink
Ian Dunlop, SMH, September 22, 2012
Climate change has moved into a new and dangerous phase. The Arctic has been warming two to three times faster than the rest of the world. In the past few weeks, melting of the Arctic sea ice has accelerated dramatically, reducing the area and volume to levels never previously experienced.

20 September 2012

Arctic warning: As the system changes, we must adjust our science

Update 20 September:
EXTENT: Satellite data shows Arctic melt sea-ice extent probably reached the minimum for the year at around 3.4 million square kilometres on Monday 17 September, 18 per cent less than the previous record in 2007 of 4.2 m.sq.kms. The JAXA daily raw data is here and the NSIDC date is here. This extent is now well less than half of the average extent of the 1980s.

VOLUME: The sea-ice volume is now down to just one-fifth of what it was in 1979. Latest PIOMAS volume from September 3, 2012 is 3407 cubic kilometers of ice remaining in the Arctic. Contrasted with the 16,855 of 1979, that is just about 20 per cent. Extent has dropped further since 3 September, so minimum volume this melt season will be about 5–10 per cent less than the early-September figure.

ICE-FREE ARCTIC: Debate rages within the scientific community. Previously we covered Big call: Cambridge prof. predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”. On Monday the Guardian reported "Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years", in which Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge said:  "I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years. The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer… in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months. This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates. As the sea ice retreats in summer the ocean warms up (to 7C in 2011) and this warms the seabed too. The continental shelves of the Arctic are composed of offshore permafrost, frozen sediment left over from the last ice age. As the water warms the permafrost melts and releases huge quantities of trapped methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas so this will give a big boost to global warming." Unforntunately, the eviednce is on his side.

Northern Polar Institute Research Director Kim Holmen, left,
with UN Foundation Board Chairman Ted Turner and
President Timothy Wirth in the Arctic
Post of 13 September:
By David Spratt,
published in ReNewEconomy on 12 September 2012
and in Climate Progress on 13 September 2012

The Arctic sea-ice big melt of 2012 “has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us”, according to Kim Holmen, Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) international director.
     From Svalbard (halfway between mainland Norway and Greenland), the BBC’s David Shukman reported on 7 September that Holmen had described the current melt rate “a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago”.
     As detailed last week, the thin crust of sea-ice which floats on the north polar sea is now only half of the average minimum summer extent of the 1980, and just one-quarter of the volume twenty years ago.

How British government's climate forecasting MET Office gets the Arctic wrong

Introductory note: It is now very likely that the Arctic will be sea-ice-free within a decade, with enormous consequences. Not only has the 2007 record minimum low been smashed, but the new record low 2012 sea-ice extent (3.4 million square kilometres) is less than half the figure three decades ago. And the volume of ice is now down to just one-fifth of the figure three decades ago. In 1979 the summer volume was 16,855 cubic kilometres, on 3 September this year it was just 3,407 cubic kilometres. 80 per cent of the ice has already been lost.
     The IPCC 2007 got the Arctic sea-ice wrong in projecting an Arctic still containing summer sea-ice by 2100. Now, Arctic specialists relying on new, regional climate models such as Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge are making the big call of a summer ice-free Arctic as early as 2015.  By contrast, those relying for Arctic forecasts on global general circulation models (GCMs) used for the 2007 IPCC report are sticking to a 2030-2040 projection, but lament that “We just don’t know exactly why this (sea-ice loss) is moving so fast”. The predictions of those who rely too much on the GCM models seem strangely removed from the reality on the ground and even a common sense view of the evidence, as this analysis from Arctic News shows. Underestimating the speed and likely future rate of change in the climate system has deadly consequences. – David

UK MET Office keeps downplaying significance of events in the Arctic

by Sam Carana, Arctic News

One of the most respected datasets on Arctic sea-ice volume is  PIOMAS, the  Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System developed at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington. The graph below shows PIOMAS data for annual minimum Arctic sea ice volume (black dots) with an exponential trend added (in red).

16 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 16 September 2012


Coal company shareholders dudded, says Garnaut
Ross Garnaut, AFR, 12 September 2012
Labor’s former climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has accused coal companies of “dudding” their shareholders by overinvesting in mining projects

Decades Of Deception: The Coal Industry Has Advertised ‘Clean Coal’ Since At Least 1921
Stephen Lacey, Climate Progress, 13 September 2012
The coal industry has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to convince people that it can create an environmentally friendly product. However, whether it be the technological and cost barriers associated with capturing and storing carbon dioxide or the devastating impact of mountaintop mining on groundwater, ecosystems and human health, the concept of “clean” coal is a proven myth.

10 September 2012

On thin ice: Time-frame to save the Arctic is melting away

By David Spratt, first published by ReNew Economy on 5 September 2012

 Something extraordinary is happening when graphs of melting Arctic sea-ice have their vertical axis redrawn because the data are falling off the chart.
     But that’s what has occurred in the last 10 days, since the extent of floating Arctic sea-ice broke the satellite-era minimum record on 24 August. On that date it was 4.2 million square kilometres, according to data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
     Since then, an additional half a million square kilometres of sea-ice has melted. The extent on 4 September was just half of the average minimum extent of the 1980s. At the current rate of loss, with one to three weeks left in the northern melt season, the minimum may well shrink below 3.5 million square kilometres. This is an astounding story.

09 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 9 September 2012

Arctic sea ice extent over the past 1,450 years reconstructed from proxy data by Kinnard et al., with a 40-year low pass filter applied.  Note that the modern observational data in this figure extend through 2008, and thus it is a close approximation of current conditions, even though the extent is not as low as current annual data due to the 40-year smoothing. Courtesy Skeptical Science

Life Is Sacred
Chris Hedges, TruthDig, 3 September 2012
Corporations care nothing for democracy, the rule of law, human rights or the sanctity of life. They are determined to be the last predator standing. And then they too will be snuffed out. Unrestrained hubris always leads to self-immolation.

02 September 2012

Climate News

Week ending 2 September 2012
Arctic sea-ice volume 1979 to 25 Aigust 2012
It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”
– Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (2006)

Grassroots Movements Driving Back Coal Worldwide
Gordon Scott, Sierra Club, August 27, 2012
The global grassroots movement against dirty, polluting coal-fired power has added another continent to the ranks of those finally moving away from the carbon-intensive fuel source: Australia.