30 August 2012

Big call: Cambridge prof. predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”

By David Spratt  Published in ReNewEconomy on 30 August 2012

Cambridge Professor and Arctic expert Peter Wadhams

This is one of those moments when the pace of climate change and its consequences become simply extraordinary.
      In the last two weeks, I’ve spent some time trying to unravel the Arctic’s big melt of 2012 and what is means for future global warming and the world we will live in.
      It’s not territory for the faint-heartened, and one of the world’s foremost Arctic experts has stepped up to make a big call, a really big call.

29 August 2012

Arctic melt demands another look at Australia's climate policy

First published in New Matilda, 28 August 2012

There's half as much sea-ice as there was 30 years ago and the annual summer melt keeps smashing records. David Spratt on why Australian policy-makers should be paying attention.

In the last few days something so dramatic has happened in the Arctic that it demands another look at Australia's climate policies.
     On Friday 24 August, annual summer melting of the floating sea-ice in the Arctic Ocean smashed the previous record, with another three weeks of the melt season still to to go. Scientists are calling it "stunning" and "astounding". This breaks the record set in 2007. Back then there were scientific gasps that the sea ice was melting “100 years ahead of schedule”.
     Thirty years ago, the summer sea-ice extent was around 7.5 million square kilometres (similar to area of Australia), but this year it will end up at half that figure.  And the ice is becoming thinner, due to melting from below by warmer seas, and the relentless loss of thicker, multi-year ice. So the volume of the summer ice will in 2012 be only around one quarter of what it was three decades ago.  Now it looks like the sea-ice  will be gone in summer within a decade or so, maybe sooner.  That's what many of the cryopshere scientists and models are saying.

27 August 2012

Arctic sea-ice melt record more than broken, it’s being smashed

by David Spratt, first posted 25 August 2012
UPDATE 27 AUGUST: Sunday's data confirms that the previous sea-ice extent minimum of 24 September 2007 was broken last Friday, 24 August 2012. What is also stunning are sea-ice daily extent figures averaging ice loss of more than 100,000 square kilometres per day for the last four days. This suggest melt is accelerating very late in the melt season in a pattern that has never before been observed. The Arctic this year is heading into new territory and it looks like 2012 may in retrospect be seen as the year when a new melt regime took hold.
      The ice extent is about to drop below 4 million square kilometres for the first time in the satellite record, and the Arctic has shed almost half a million square kilometres of sea-ice in last five days! With three weeks of the melt season still to go, it's not hard to see extent dropping another half a million square kilometres (or more!) to 3.5 million square kilometres. (In previous big melt years of 2007 and 2011, around half a million square kilometres was lost after 26 August.)
    This is starting to make the second graph (below) looking reasonable, and those scientists and models which have been suggesting an sea-ice-free summer Arctic within a decade to be on the money.
     The commentary by Climate Commissioner Prof. Will Steffen in today's newspapers that ''We can expect to see an ice-free Arctic at about the middle of this century'' looks out of touch with the most recent data, and exhibits IMHO a scientific reticence which does a disservice to the urgent public debate we need on implications of the Arctic melt for Australian climate policy (and sea-level rises from Greenland!). Positive feedbacks now have a grip on Arctic sea-ice and the descent appears to be exponential, not linear. Looking at the PIOMASS date on sae ice volume (fifth chart here), its hard to know what Prof. Steffen  has based his assertion upon.
      Perhaps the enormity of the present situation is best summed up by sea-ice blogger Neven: "Basically, I'm at a loss for words, and not just because my jaw has dropped and won't go back up as long as I'm looking at the graphs. I'm also at a loss - and I have already said it a couple of times this year - because I just don't know what to expect any longer. I had a very steep learning curve in the past two years. We all did. But it feels as if everything I've learned has become obsolete. "
Climate change impacts are frequently happening more quickly and at lower levels of global warming than scientists expected, even a decade or two ago. And this week the Arctic has provided a dramatic and deeply disturbing example.
     According to IARC/JAXA satellite data at Arctic Sea-ice Monitor from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the sea-ice extent of 24 August 2012 of 4,209,219 square kilometres broke the previous record in the satellite era of 4,254,531 square kilometres set on 24 August 2007. Back then the were scientific gasps that the sea ice was melting “100 years ahead of schedule”.
JAXA Arctic sea ice extent to 24 August 2012. Updates: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

26 August 2012

Climate News

Week ending 26 August 2012
Projected sea-level rise to 2100 (inches). Source City of Boston

Arctic sea-ice melt record more than broken, it’s being smashed
David Spratt, ClimateCodeRed, 25 August 2012
Climate change impacts are frequently happening more quickly and at lower levels of global warming than scientists expected, even a decade or two ago. And this week the Arctic has provided a dramatic and deeply disturbing example.

20 August 2012

Arctic heads for record melt, but do we want to know?

Update to: Dramatic lessons from the Arctic big melt of 2012: It's already too hot, as Greenland melt record is smashed
Related post: US Media Turn A Blind Eye To Record Greenland Ice Melt
by David Spratt, first published at RenewEconomy, 21 August 2012

Two extraordinary events at the end of last week say a lot about the state of the climate change conversation in Australia.
     The first was data from US Arctic researcher Prof. Marco Tedesco showing that melting over the Greenland ice sheet had shattered the seasonal record on 8 August, a full four weeks before the close of the melting season (following image). The melting season lasts until the second week of September each northern summer, so this result is stunning: "With more yet to come in August, this year's overall melting will fall way above the old records. That's a goliath year -- the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979," said Tedesco.

Dramatic lessons from the Arctic big melt of 2012: It's already too hot, as Greenland melt record is smashed

Related post: Arctic heads for record melt, but do we want to know?

UPDATE 21 August: RECORD SEA-ICE MELT: The Arctic big melt is charging along and a number of data sets today show that 2012 has broken the 2007/2011 record for minimum sea-ice extent / area. These include data sets from Arctic ROOS and Cryosphere Today. This closeup from Neven of the Cryosphere Today data is very clear:

Cryosphere Today sea ice area August 2005-2012

Cryosphere Today data set shows:
  • 2012, day 230, 2.87743 million square kilometers
  • 2011, day 253, 2.90474 million square kilometers (previous record low)
So it looks like the record has been smashed with another 3 weeks to go in the melt season.  This is almost as extraordinary as the Greenland record melt story below. 

19 August 2012

Climate News

Week ending 19 August 2012
Arctic sea-ice extent decade by decade: the rate of loss is increasing. Source: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/extent/Sea_Ice_Extent.png

Australians lead in fitting solar panels on homes
Ben Cubby, SMH, 18 August 2012
Australians put more household solar panel systems on their roofs than anyone else in the world last year, new data from the Clean Energy Regulator and the International Energy Agency show.

12 August 2012

Climate News

 Week ending 12 August 2012

Extensive melt over the Greenland Ice Sheet. This figure shows the daily, cumulative area of the Greenland ice sheet showing surface melt for 2012, 2011, 2010 and for the 1980 to 1999 mean. While melt was unusually extensive through May and June of 2012, the melt area increased rapidly in early July in response to an unusually warm weather event. Source: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2010/08/a-most-interesting-arctic-summer/figure6-2/

Rate of Arctic summer sea ice loss is 50% higher than predicted
Robin McKie, Guardian, 11 August 2012
New satellite images show polar ice coverage dwindling in extent and thickness
Sea Ice Decimated, Huge Storm May Have Broken Arctic Ocean Stratification

06 August 2012

Beyond Coal and Gas Forum

by Ellie Smith, Mackay Conservation Group

Over the weekend of 28-29 July, over 80 people from all over Queensland, along with some visitors from NSW and Victoria, gathered just south of Mackay to learn about and discuss the impacts of the Central Queensland coal and CSG boom on our environment, communities and economy at the Beyond Coal and Gas Forum.

     The weekend was an extremely energising event. Participants went home feeling more powerful and optimistic about their chances of protecting their communities and their livelihoods from the impacts of the massive boom in coal and CSG that is planned for Central and North Queensland.

05 August 2012

Climate News

Week ending 5 August 2012
Arctic sea-ice volume (red line is 2012) from
Arctic Death Spiral Continues: Record Low Sea Ice Volume Appears Likely
Neven, Climate Progress, 4 August 2012
I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’re going to have a new record volume low, although the difference with 2010 and 2011 has become smaller. Right now it’s 1249 and 730 km3 respectively. 

More Arctic charts

04 August 2012

Are we experiencing more extreme hot weather due to climate change? The evidence is in.

By James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy (available at PDF here)

The greatest barrier to public recognition of human-made climate change is probably the natural variability of local climate. How can a person discern long-term climate change, given the notorious variability of local weather and climate from day to day and year to year?

Figure 1: Fire fighters battle the Taylor Creek blaze, one of several fires which have burned over 75,000 acres in southeastern Montana in summer 2012. Image credit: USFWS/Gerald Vickers via InciWeb.org.