Half a Kilometer of Ice Gone in Just 7 Years — West Antarctica’s Smith Glacier Points To Nightmare Melt Scenario

The nightmare global warming melt scenario for West Antarctica goes something like this —

First, ocean waters warmed by climate change approach the vast frozen continent. Melt already running out from the continent forms a fresh water lens that pushes these warmer waters toward the ocean bottom. The waters then get caught up in currents surrounding Antarctica that draw them in toward numerous submerged glacial faces. The added ocean heat combines with falling melting points at depth to produce rapid melt along sea fronting glacier bases. Since many of these glaciers sit on below sea level beds that slope downward toward the interior of Antarctica, a small amount of initial melt sets off an inland flood of these warmer waters that then produces a cascade of melt. This glacial melt chain reaction ultimately generates a Heinrich Event in which armadas of icebergs burst out from Antarctica — forcing global sea levels to rapidly rise.

This is Why We Worry So Much About Multi-Meter Sea Level Rise

Ultimately, seas rising by multiple meters this Century are a very real possibility under current warming scenarios in which such a series of cascading melt events occurs in West Antarctica.

(NASA video narrated by Dr. Eric Rignot, a prominent glacial scientist. Concerns about the origin of melt water pulse 1A during the end of the last ice age led to investigation of large Antarctic melt pulses as a potential source. Subsequent investigation identified melt vulnerabilities at the bases of large sea fronting glaciers in West Antarctica to present and predicted levels of ocean warming. At issue was the fact that bottom waters were warming and that because many glaciers rested on sea beds that sloped inland, melt rates had the potential to very rapidly accelerate.)

Though such a nightmare melt scenario was recently theoretical, it represented a very real potential near-future event as global temperatures rose into the 1-2 degrees Celsius above 1880s range during recent years. For times in the geological past around 115,000 years ago also produced large glacial melt pulses and related sea level rises of 15-25 feet during periods of similar warmth.

However, direct evidence of such a powerful melt dynamic had not yet been directly observed in Antarctica’s glaciers. Fresh water lenses were developing, rates of glacial loss were quickening. Basal melt rates looked bad. But the kind of tremendous losses necessary to produce rapid sea level rise were not yet fully in evidence.

Smith Glacier Loses Half a Kilometer of Ice in Seven Years

That situation changed during recent weeks when two scientific papers broke the news that some of West Antarctica’s glaciers had lost upwards of a half a kilometer of ice thickness due to contact with warm ocean waters over the past decade.

The studies, entitled Rapid Submarine Ice Melting in the Grounding Zones of Ice Shelves in West Antarctica and Grounding Line Retreat of Pope, Smith and Kohler Glaciers took a comprehensive look at both surface and underside melt of three major west Antarctic glaciers near the Thwaites and Pine Island Glacier systems. These glaciers included Pope, Smith and Kohler — which have seen increasing instability and rates of seaward movement during recent years. Using multiple instruments, the scientists found evidence of massive ice losses and speeding ice flows.

pope-smith-and-kholer-glacial-flow-velocities

(Surface velocity of Kohler, Smith and Pope Glaciers provided by NASA. More rapid seaward movement of glaciers = faster rates of sea level rise.)

The losses occurred at a time when an influx of warmer water (warming circumpolar deep water) was heating the ice shelves and grounding lines buttressing these three partially submerged glaciers. This warming was found to have produced melt along the grounding zones of these glaciers in the range of 300 to 490 meters from 2002 to 2009. In other words, about 1/3 to 1/2 a kilometer of ice thickness at the grounding line was lost in just seven years. Melted away from below by warming deep ocean conditions at the rate of up to 70 meters or around 230 feet per annum.

The studies found that the Pope and Kohler glaciers, which rested on up-sloping sea beds, produced slower rates of melt. While Smith, which sat on a retrograde (or down-sloping bed) produced very rapid rates of melt. According to the Nature study:

We attribute the different evolution of Smith Glacier to the retreat of its grounding line deeper allowing warmer waters to flood its grounding zone, and increasing ocean thermal forcing due to the lowering of the in situ melting point; as well as to the exposure of the glacier bottom to ocean water as the grounding line retreated rapidly.

A Context of Worsening Risks

Unfortunately, numerous glaciers in the Amundsen Sea region including parts of the Thwaites system and the massive Pine Island Glacier also sit on retrograde slopes. These glaciers are seeing increasing fluxes of warm, deep water. By themselves they represent multiple feet of sea level rise (4-7 feet). Furthermore, Thwaites and Pine Island Glacier currently buttress a number of massive inland glaciers that become vulnerable to melt if inland-running retrograde slopes become flooded with warming ocean waters.

The very real concern is that Smith Glacier serves as a harbinger for near future events to come. As a result, coastal regions around the world are now under a heightened risk of swiftly rising seas and rapid coastal inundation over the coming years and decades.

Links:

Rapid Submarine Ice Melting in the Grounding Zones of Ice Shelves in West Antarctica

Grounding Line Retreat of Pope, Smith and Kholer Glaciers

Heinrich Event

Dr. Eric Rignot

Studies Offer Glimpse of Melting Under Antarctic Glaciers

Thwaites Glacier

Pine Island Glacier

Hat tip to Zack Labe

Hat tip to Miles h

Leave a comment

97 Comments

  1. Robert – excellent post as usual – that first paragraph just puts it all in a nutshell. Always amazed at your ability to research, summarize, and present so clearly the various spectres we face in these perilous times.
    Great video link also – Dr Rignot never minces his words.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Dave. This new flurry of studies was kind of a rough one for me. My parents happen to live in Hampton Roads. My sister lives there. My Grandmother lives there. Aunts, uncles, a niece, friends, other relatives. It’s sad to think that the places I’ve grown so fond of over the years may be gone in the not too distant future. That I’ll be forced to be the bearer of bad news and have to ask people who’ve lived there for decades to leave. I don’t know. I guess I already feel like a refugee in a way. A kind of dislocation of the heart.

      Reply
      • Marcusblanc

         /  October 26, 2016

        They sound like some pretty awful conversations to have to deal with, my sympathies.

        Local sea level rise is affected by so many factors that it’s not always easy to get a grip on, but I guess you have done the background. At least your in-depth knowledge of those issues means that you can deliver a message based on a comprehensive view of the various factors, as you do that here so often.

        Ultimately, your family are lucky to have you, no matter how tough the message.

        Reply
        • I’ve been trying to gently nudge them into a five year plan. My parents at least agree. I hope they have five years.

      • Really wonder how long it will be before a great many of us are refugees for one reason or another – sea level rise, drought and desertification, land degradation, wildfire, salt water intrusion in river deltas and coastal wells…the list goes on.

        Can’t believe the utter blindness of so many.

        Sympathize with your family situation. Hoping to have a little while longer than some here in southern Quebec.

        Reply
        • Greg

           /  October 27, 2016

          Robert, I too have, now aging, family there and agree with your sadness and frustration. I coach that the financial collapse of their properties is most likely the initial threat based on a combination of skyrocketing insurance rates and loss of resale value before the waters arrive in Va Beach. I know your family is already dealing with water in Norfolk/Hampton Roads but I imagine the financial picture may be a more persuasive argument with some.

        • Thanks for the sympathies, guys. And, you’re right, Dave. I think a lot of us will experience dislocation — either directly or vicariously through those we know. We’re all Bangladeshis now.

          Moreover we will see the impacts as people move en masse to more sheltered communities and areas — much as we see today in the mass flight from Africa and the Middle East across the Med but on a much greater scale and happening in pretty much every country and region.

          Been using the financial argument for about four years now. Will give it another shot this holiday season. Might even brew up a little powerpoint to use informally to point to scientific studies, past real estate impacts to storms in certain regions (FL etc) all while highlighting the fact that the issue is not sporadic like storms — but steadily worsening for the foreseeable future.

        • I can recommend David Roberts’s TED talk–definitely got my wife’s attention. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ktYbVwr90. Also, here is a nice ExxonMobil-Koch-sponsored (pause for deeply ironic laughter) piece on sea level rise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYmv3D8is7o

  2. Griffin

     /  October 26, 2016

    I agree with Dave, you are doing a great job of taking the information and presenting it in a way that is far more effective a communication than all of the other articles that I have read regarding these studies.
    You are always on the leading edge Robert! Stay strong for you have certainly found your reason for being.

    Reply
  3. marcel_g

     /  October 26, 2016

    Man o man, we guessed this was happening but there’s no evading it now. I made a crude mathematical model a couple of years ago, and all the curves of melting ice added up to about 2.5m by 2100.

    I didn’t factor in the idea that a marine terminating glacier’s face can’t be more than 100m high, which could result in much more rapid melting.

    Reply
    • It has become cliche now. But that’s a very real physical tipping point for ice. You create a certain degree of destabilization and it just tends to go down like dominoes in the areas where the ocean is capabable of flooding inland. Pretty bad situation.

      Reply
  4. coloradobob

     /  October 26, 2016

    Dr. Francis gets more right everyday –

    Extreme cold winters fuelled by jet stream and climate change
    The research, carried out by an international team of scientists including the University of Sheffield, has found that warming in the Arctic may be intensifying the effects of the jet stream’s position, which in the winter can cause extreme cold weather, such as the winter of 2014/15 which saw record snowfall levels in New York.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-10-extreme-cold-winters-fuelled-jet.html#jCp

    Reply
    • climatehawk1

       /  October 26, 2016

      Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

      Reply
    • There’s a bit more going on here than meets the eye in that the coming together of these scientists in open discussion represents a big shift in this issue. More collaborative and less confrontational which is a big positive for the science here. Francis has produced excellent, ground breaking, work and should absolutely be commended by all for bird-dogging this issue while having the fortitude to stick to her guns with grace and candor. I’ll have a few bits to add to consider tomorrow.

      One thing that’s critical to keep in mind is that this polar air mass displacement does not slow down overall atmospheric warming. In fact, it currently appears to be a primary feature of polar amplification — which, at first, is an enabler for speeding atmospheric warming overall.

      If there is a slow down in atmospheric warming it is due to glacial melt and the freshwater lens effect which preferentially transfers heat into the deep ocean and into glaciers. This increases Earth system energy imbalance and overall rates of Earth system heat gain, however. We would not expect this effect to become largely apparent until total Earth System heating hit near 1.5 to 2 C. We’re close, so we may start seeing some blips in this direction, but I think it’s still a bit off.

      The atmospheric cooling effect due to the fresh water lens is essentially a rebalancing of hot/cold between the ocean and atmosphere and is a signature of global warming overall. Related atmospheric cooling is temporary and illusory when taking the entire systemic change into account. It is also a major potential driver of storms as we start to enter phase 2 climate change.

      Reply
  5. Cate

     /  October 26, 2016

    Not one, but two, rare ice avalanches in Tibet, in the same area, within months of each other. Scientists are still trying to figure out the cause—perhaps an accumulation of meltwater–and whether there is a link to climate change.

    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/tibet-ice-avalanche-20822

    Reply
    • Aaron Lewis

       /  October 27, 2016

      If they are coming every few months, they are not what I would call rare.
      Such events were rare when we were kids. That was then, this is now.

      Reply
  6. Cate

     /  October 26, 2016

    This is another version of a story making the rounds of the climate journals and blogs in the past few days…..

    Impelled by Arctic warming and loss of sea ice, the polar vortex may be shifting—-to Europe, bringing more bursts of frigid cold to North America—which may in turn sporadically offset some of the effects of global warming.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dreaded-polar-vortex-may-be-shifting/

    Reply
    • To be very clear, any seasonal off-sets to regional warming due to polar vortex displacement come in the context of a globe that is still gaining heat. So these are regional impacts in the context of overall temperature gain. Furthermore, the polar amplification that is the likely cause of these polar vortex displacement events is an overall amplifying feedback to atmospheric warming. In effect, what we are seeing is that the polar air mass has been blasted off its base by heating of the Arctic Ocean zone. This is a first impact of a death of winter type scenario.

      The other point to consider is that the cold side of the polar vortex related dipole is juxtaposed by a warm side that basically removes or greatly ablates seasonal winter in its particular zone. We’ve seen this in parts of western North America during recent years.

      Reply
  7. Cate

     /  October 27, 2016

    Coming soon: the US plan to decarbonize by 2050. This could be interesting…..

    http://www.bna.com/us-unveil-path-n57982079137/

    Oct. 25 — The U.S. will unveil a sweeping plan to decarbonize its economy by 2050 at the Nov. 7–18 climate summit in Morocco, giving other nations a template to draw up their own plans for quickly shifting away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources, the top U.S. climate negotiator said Oct. 25……
    “The pathways we lay out which we plan to release in a couple of weeks in Morocco will detail scenarios in which the U.S. can build a very low-emission economy that lets us play our part in helping achieve our long-term global target of avoiding dangerous climate change,” Pershing said…..
    “So to me it’s not a question of whether gas is good but if the carbon is good. To me, capture and storage becomes an essential technology” in any discussion about decarbonizing the U.S. economy, he said.

    Reply
    • wili

       /  October 27, 2016

      Wow! That _would_ be something. Can’t happen soon enough, as far as I can see.

      Reply
    • CCS has not been deployed to effectively reduce carbon emissions on a materially substantial net basis in even one mainline power plant as yet (it’s been used to enhance oil production which results in a net carbon emission increase over time, and it’s been used in various demonstration plants to almost zero emissions reductions effect). CCS continues to provide mostly false hope for emissions reductions by fossil fuel plants. Costs increase in projections by 50 to 150 percent for CCS.

      With wind and solar already competitive with coal and gas on a cost basis, adding costs to fossil fuels makes them even less competitive. Fracking has helped to produce a gas glut which helped to reduce coal based carbon emissions in the US. However, this came at the cost of expanding access to unconventional fuels and lengthening the time of fossil fuel burning. So the net effect on carbon emissions long term is an increase unless the gas plants are ultimately shut down or CCS’d as well. CCS is also a water hog and a huge water polluter. Even worse than typical coal. So though CCS can, in theory, help with carbon emissions, it does so at a pretty severe externality cost outside of the carbon it contains. Underground storage in the US and around the world is also limited. Some new laboratory applications provide various possible materials for CCS, but they haven’t yet been proven in application or economics.

      Furthermore, increases in methane emissions due to fracking further erode any benefit that came from coal to gas replacement. The strongest positive benefits come from direct replacement with zero emissions renewables. If the DOE had been more aggressive with renewables and less apt to defend gas and even coal or to promote CCS which is still not practical by any sensible economic measure, we would be much further along in emissions reductions. In other words, this CCS talk-talk doesn’t really address the issue or deal with practical economic conditions as they stand. Direct replacement by renewables remains the most effective way to rapidly reduce carbon emissions and CCS so far remains a pipe dream that the fossil fuel industry rolls out every time it needs a greenwash dog and pony show. In other words, CCS needs to make good on actual carbon emissions reduction claims now or make way for renewables. We’ve been hearing about CCS for nearly three decades now but have no real material results. There are some interesting lab applications. But as is it’s still mostly vapor ware. So the industry needs to put up or shut up as the saying goes.

      Reply
      • Some where, a couple of years ago, I saw an excellent video clip of an interview with an engineer (not Kevin Anderson) on the feasibility of CCS. Might have been one by Nick Breeze.

        The engineer made this simple point: In order to be effective, CCS would need to deal with some 10 Gigatons of CO2 each year! This is more than coal and oil handling combined. We have no system of infrastructure that deals with anything like that kind of volume anywhere. So the big question is – how long would it take to develop? We probably don’t have time, even if it were possible.

        IMO, CCS is a pipe dream that is encouraged in subtle ways by the FF industry.

        Reply
        • Kevin Jones

           /  October 27, 2016

          I will take another look at CCS after the fossil fueled Captains of Industry pipe their farts to their facemasks.

        • Biofuel CCS may have the potential to help to push atmospheric carbon emissions to net negative. But it will be a costly energy and carbon reductions source that will likely require large subsidies and careful regulation to work well. Fossil fuel CCS is a mixed bag that at best may generate some marginal carbon capture gains while making FF more expensive. The FF industry is therefore likely to continue to talk the CCS game while resisting actual application.

    • mulga mumblebrain

       /  October 27, 2016

      If any ‘plan’ involves ‘carbon capture and storage’ I will remain sceptical. Unless it is in the form of gigantic schemes to restore the planet’s biomass and sequester carbon in forests, soils, sea-grass meadows, grasslands and wildlife, plus biochar, or ‘vegetable coal’ as I believe our Brazilian friend calls it. 2050, of course, is rather too late, and it all depends on the Reptilians not returning to the White House or keeping control of the Congress, and the Democrats sticking to their guns in the face of a frantic backlash from fossil fuels and their financers. I prefer pessimism because it has equated to realism for decades, and because then the surprises are always good ones.

      Reply
    • Cate

       /  October 27, 2016

      Here is Johnathan Pershing discussing climate policy.

      https://www.c-span.org/video/?417430-1/jonathan-pershing-discusses-climate-policy

      Reply
  8. Jay M

     /  October 27, 2016

    wonder if the isotope relationship of Carbon 14 in the ocean could measure global melting
    burning all this old carbon and the CO2 being absorbed by the current ocean
    melting water locked up in ice and then setting up a gradient of the ratio between the “boom” days carbon release and then the dilution by older ice melting

    Reply
  9. wili

     /  October 27, 2016

    The thing that struck me about Richard Alley’s talks about glaciers sitting on downsloping bedrock was how quickly things just become a matter of structural instability. IIRC, once the icecliff walls become over 100 meters high (above or below water), they are just structurally unstable, and they don’t need any warm water or air or anything else to cause a cascade of collapse, since every collapse reveals a wall that is even higher and even more unstable.

    See ~ 38:30 and following here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4oMsfa_30Q

    Reply
    • wili

       /  October 27, 2016

      Here’s a reference for the 100 meter ice cliff limit I mentioned:

      ““The maximum ice cliff is 100 meters, beyond that the yield stress of ice will just disintegrate,” says David Pollard, a glaciologist at Penn State University who led the new research. The fear is that as Thwaites (or potentially some other glaciers) become destabilized, it may produce ice cliffs higher than 100 meters which will then collapse.”

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/09/29/scientists-declare-an-urgent-mission-study-west-antarctica-and-fast/?utm_term=.58b0d2a08a71

      Reply
      • Jay M

         /  October 27, 2016

        nice round number

        Reply
        • Cate

           /  October 27, 2016

          Anecdotal observation of ice behaviour: in the days before attic insulation and rain gutters were common, winter roofs in my area commonly grew icicles that mounded up in fantastic ice-castle structures along eaves, sometimes extending right to the ground in thick ridged columns of ice. As March came on and the sun gathered strength, these beautiful conglomerations would gleam and sparkle and drip enticingly. We kids we would pick and poke at them, darting in to break off smaller lickable icicles here and there—daring the pack to move……The solid appearance of the ice didn’t fool us—we knew that at any moment, without warning, the whole thing would come rushing off the roof. And you didn’t want to end up underneath it. Yeah, ice moves—unpredictably and really really fast.

      • Good points, Wili. There are severe physical vulnerabilities to these sea fronting glaciers on reverse slope beds. And it apparently doesn’t take too much in the way of ocean warming to set them off.

        Reply
  10. OT but a Zika followup. The Wolbachia infected mosquitoes are not genetically altered like the Oxitech ones and have not garnered widespread opposition. We will just have to see how effective they are. A plus is that other viral diseases may also be affected.

    Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes will be widely deployed in two South American cities to combat viral infections. 26 October 2016
    http://www.nature.com/news/rio-fights-zika-with-biggest-release-yet-of-bacteria-infected-mosquitoes-1.20878
    Mosquitoes that carry Wolbachia bacteria — which hinder the insects’ ability to transmit Zika, dengue and other viruses — will be widely released in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Medellín, Colombia, over the next two years, scientists announced on 26 October. The deployments will reach around 2.5 million people in each city.
    “This really has the potential to be a game changer in terms of vector control — the biggest thing since DDT,” says Philip McCall, a medical entomologist who studies mosquito control at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK.

    Reply
  11. Andy_in_SD

     /  October 27, 2016

    World wildlife ‘falls by 58% in 40 years’

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37775622

    Reply
    • Cate

       /  October 27, 2016

      Interesting article—note that Stuart Pimm doesn’t agree with some of the methodology. I like that the authors point out that the percentage refers to numbers of animals, not species—so this is not a measure of extinctions, which is good news since in theory we should be able to do something about falling total numbers of animals.

      Still. Down two-thirds (of 1970) populations of vertebrates by 2020 is surely huge cause for concern, and the numbers for freshwater-dependent species are much worse.

      Thanks for the link, Andy.

      Reply
    • Andy,
      Anecdotal confirmation from Johnston Co. NC. A friend who lives in the rural area said that in the last couple of years all the wildlife just disappeared.

      Reply
    • Robert

       /  October 27, 2016

      Equally disconcerting is the dramatic decline in insect populations as demonstrated in three major studies in recent years. This is chronicled in a recent edition of Yale Environment 360. This is as clear to any casual observer as the clear windshields which at one time were coated in “bugjuice” after a ride in the country but which now have almost nothing if the sort.. Further informal observation yields dramatically fewer sightings of anthills, ants, spiders, grasshoppers, and even houseflies.

      Reply
      • bostonblorp

         /  October 27, 2016

        As a kid I remember dozens of fireflies out at night. Now when I go back to visit my parents it is notable to see one. Nothing visible has changed (development, dams, etc). Something unseen happened and they are gone.

        Reply
    • Thanks for this, Andy. More evidence of anthropocentric impacts. So many insults to the natural world. And we’ve really got very little time in which to reverse them.

      Reply
      • Marcusblanc

         /  October 28, 2016

        As insects came up, I heard a review of a book on the radio that sounds quite brilliant, called The Moth Snowstorm.

        ‘The moth snowstorm, a phenomenon Michael McCarthy remembers from his boyhood when moths “would pack a car’s headlight beams like snowflakes in a blizzard,” is a distant memory. Wildlife is being lost, not only in the wholesale extinctions of species but also in the dwindling of those species that still exist.’

        http://www.nyrb.com/products/the-moth-snowstorm?variant=17705164359

        Reply
        • mulga mumblebrain

           /  October 28, 2016

          I remember moth snowstorms from the 70s, in Canberra where I then lived, and outside Melbourne when on a trip. Bogong moths, in their multitudes. I wonder if they still swarm in such numbers.

  12. Hilary

     /  October 27, 2016

    New Zealand’s oceans, coasts and marine wildlife are deteriorating due to increased pressure from humans, and the government says the changes pose serious concerns.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/316619/nz-oceans-deteriorating,-marine-wildlife-threatened

    “The Ministry for the Environment has released an in-depth look at the state of the marine environment in collaboration with Statistics New Zealand.
    Read the report Our Marine Environment 2016here.
    Ocean acidification and warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of extinction of most of our native marine birds and coastal degradation are the report’s top worries.
    It says the increase in acidification and warming of oceans has widespread implications for species and ecosystems, and the overall conservation status of seabirds is worsening.

    According to the report more than one-third of New Zealand’s native species and subspecies of seabirds, more than half of shorebirds, and more than one-quarter of marine mammals – including albatrosses, penguins, herons, dolphins, and whales – are threatened with extinction.
    Nearly half the world’s whale, dolphin, and porpoise species are found in New Zealand waters, almost one-quarter of the world’s seabird species breed in New Zealand, and the country has the highest number of endemic seabird species in the world.
    It says the country’s marine fauna is of international interest and importance.”

    Reply
    • redskylite

       /  October 27, 2016

      Many thanks for sharing that shocking news (of my home country), we are running short on time now, no time for denial politics only time for positive action. Slightly surprised it wasn’t on the national news tonight.

      Reply
    • More rivets getting knocked out… This wasting of the natural world is a tough thing to bear witness to.

      Reply
      • Marcusblanc

         /  October 28, 2016

        The author of the book I mentioned up the thread calls it ‘the great thinning’.

        Reply
  13. June

     /  October 27, 2016

    Some good news.

    “World Medical Association: We Know the Health Risks of Fossil Fuels. Divest.”

    The World Medical Association (WMA) has urged its national members and all health organizations to divest from fossil fuels and transfer their funds to renewable energy sources, stating, “the effects of climate change and its extreme weather are having a significant and sometimes devastating impact on human health…

    http://commondreams.org/news/2016/10/26/world-medical-association-we-know-health-risks-fossil-fuels-divest

    Reply
    • Nice to see this organisation is taking responsible action on the issue of fossil fuel investment. Thanks for the post here, June.

      I also wanted to let you know that I contacted DT yesterday he says:

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  October 27, 2016

        Robert, thanks for this update.

        dt, I miss your posts. It feels a bit like we’ve lost an eye here, because you always post things that catch your eye, which many others of us miss. Please take all the time you need to get well and be well. I look forward to seeing your posts again soon.🙂

        Reply
      • June

         /  October 27, 2016

        Yes, thank you for checking with him. I hope he’s well enough to join us again soon. He’s missed!

        Reply
  14. Ryan in New England

     /  October 27, 2016

    Here’s a piece by Bob Henson about the record low Arctic sea ice and near record low Antarctic sea ice.

    It’s been a banner year for global sea ice, and not in a good way. After a record-smashing mild winter, the Arctic’s summer sea-ice melt culminated in a tie with 2007 for the second-lowest extent since satellite measurements began in 1979. The drama intensified this month, with Arctic sea ice extent now at a clear record low for late October as calculated by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (see Figure 1 below). This behavior isn’t really such a shock, given that Arctic sea ice has been declining for decades in the midst of sharp high-latitude warming. What’s more startling is the huge extent loss this year in the Antarctic, where sea ice extent had actually been increasing in recent years. This year’s Antarctic extent peaked very early, on August 31, and it’s now at its second-lowest value on record for late October, beaten only by 1986 (see Figure 2 below).

    Together, these simultaneous drops have sent global sea ice extent–Arctic plus Antarctic–to its lowest level by far for this time of year since regular satellite monitoring began in 1979. The global extent as of October 25 was more than 1 million square kilometers below this date in 2011, the previous record-holder. In fact, it appears that the last few days are the first time we’ve seen a global departure from average in sea ice extent of more than 3 million sq km—which is more than four times the area occupied by Texas.

    https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/sea-ice-extent-is-near-record-lowssouth-as-well-as-north

    Reply
    • Excellent article here by Bob.

      It’s worth noting that scientists have long suspected that Antarctic sea ice expansion could soon reverse due to ocean warming. Melt outflows from Antarctica and the fresh water lens effect complicate the issue. Antarctica’s vast glacial mass and currently strengthening melt rates complicate the sea ice picture for that region. However, the events of the past year globally (hitting new record lows for world ocean ice coverage) are a clear indication that a warming world is starting to take deeper bites of the reflective and important (to ecosystems and stable climates) ocean ice.

      Reply
  15. Ryan in New England

     /  October 27, 2016

    Robert, I just want to thank you for doing such incredible work. You’ve done an amazing job covering an enormous and complex issue. You take a subject that can be confusing for some and make it easy to understand. What I appreciate most is that you acknowledge the seriousness of the problems we face, and provide much needed information about a topic the mainstream media refuses to mention. Keep up the good work, the world needs you now more than ever!

    Reply
    • Ha! Not a chance that I’m going to stop. Will promise to keep doing my best for you guys.

      In all honesty, I’m just worried. There’s some response and the more morally responsible media voices are starting to multiply, which is somewhat good news. But overall, the rate of turning things around is still just too slow. Hopefully we can keep adding our own little push to change that.

      Reply
  16. Ryan in New England

     /  October 27, 2016

    Here’s some news that I really like to hear, Exxon-Mobil could be on the brink of irreversible decline🙂

    Exxon Mobil Corp. may be facing “irreversible decline” as the oil giant fails to cope with low oil prices and mounting debt, a report released Wednesday found.

    The Texas-based company, scheduled to report its third-quarter earnings on Friday, has suffered a 45 percent drop in revenue over the past five years as it bet big on drilling in oil sands, the Arctic and deep-sea sites ― decisions that proved expensive, environmentally risky and politically controversial.

    Combined with a two-year plunge in oil prices, ballooning long-term debt to cover dividend payments to shareholders and an evaporating pool of cash, Exxon Mobil’s finances show “signs of significant deterioration,” according to new research from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonprofit based in Cleveland.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/exxon-mobil-decline_us_5810f466e4b0990edc2ebdd4

    Reply
    • Ah, the beauty of meme generation. Now there’s a tipping point I’m happy to have been a part of.

      Once this gets more widely circulated, capital flight will become a real problem for Exxon. And we all need to take part in encouraging both practical and moral divestments in these industries. It will reduce market collapse pressure for when the big switches to renewables really start to take hold, smoothing what is likely to be a pretty rough transition. And it will also dilute to political power of agencies that have thus far been so harmful to the public discourse on and broader government policy responses to climate change.

      Reply
      • Absolutely. Most of my tweets end with the hashtag #divest, though it’s sometimes being replaced with #vote or #VoteClimate at the moment. But taking away investment, IMO, is how we are ultimately going to bring these behemoths down. No investor wants to be holding the bag when the fossil fuels collapse finally comes.

        Reply
  17. Cate

     /  October 27, 2016

    Prince Charles gets it. Meeting with UK government ministers, he urges protection and conservation of soil as a key strategy in counteracting climate change.

    “It appears evident from the science that something in the order of a third of global greenhouse gas emissions mitigation potential might be found in the more sustainable, long-term management of our farmed soils, along with the protection and restoration of the world’s remaining forests and peatlands – a prize of absolutely critical importance…..
    The introduction of practices such as minimum-till and cover cropping, valuable as these techniques are in preventing further soil degradation, will not on their own reverse the catastrophic declines in soil carbon levels that we have witnessed in the world’s croplands over the last forty years.
    At the end of the day, will we be able to take the necessary, urgent steps – or will there be the usual procrastination, argument and denial that have so bedevilled any meaningful progress in addressing ever more dangerous climate change?”

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/prince-charles-warns-of-climate-change-catastrophe-if-we-dont-protect-soil-a3379671.html

    Reply
    • Nice to see Charles on point for this issue. It doesn’t hurt to develop an edge and to hold people to account. Charles sets an example here. But we can all speak out in this way. Thanks for your usual very helpful posts here, Cate. Along with your down-to-earth statements and pithy anecdotes they’re always both informative and a pleasure to read.

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  October 27, 2016

        Robert, in turn I thank you for giving the world this blog. You are one of the top communicators on the nitty-gritty of climate change in my opinion, the way you can take some rather arcane science and explain it so that even a liberal arts major like me can understand what’s going on in the world around me. I really appreciate your focus on the science and on the action we can and must take and your ability to keep pounding this message home, day after day and year after year. Stay strong!

        Btw, I like “pithy.” It’s a funny word, and a good word. Pithy is good.

        Well, except in an orange.
        😀

        Reply
      • mulga mumblebrain

         /  October 28, 2016

        Chilla has been sounding the tocsin for decades, for which he has been relentlessly abused by the UK reptile press. Perhaps it’s time ‘Ma’am’ thought of abdicating.

        Reply
  18. Genomik

     /  October 27, 2016

    They’re building a tool to raise voter awareness about where candidates stand on climate change and they’re focusing their attention not on the White House, but on the institution at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue that’s been most resistant to respond to the problem.

    Earlier this month, the group launched Climate Congress, a website that aims to provide basic information on where every incumbent member of the US House and Senate and their challengers stand on key environmental questions. The mostly volunteer team behind the project began with an aim of capturing information on the candidates in the 33 Senate seats that are up for grabs in November’s election as well as candidates for 51 competitive House races where there’s a significant difference between the candidates on climate issues. The site has its own Wiki, allowing for group collaboration on the project, and founders are encouraging the public to fill in missing information.

    http://www.climatecongress.us/

    Reply
  19. Greg

     /  October 27, 2016

    Reply
    • Note the path of warm air build/influx is coordinate with extreme positive SST anomalies in these regions (Barents/Beaufort). There’s a big latent heat flip underway in which these ocean regions prefer an ice-free state and that really has served to create this big blast of Arctic warmth which appears to be knocking weather patterns off kilter.

      Reply
  20. Greg

     /  October 27, 2016

    Excellent visualization of the Polar Vortex:

    Reply
  21. Greg

     /  October 27, 2016

    What happens when leading journalists who cover science and eminent scientists who reach mass audiences get together to exchange ideas? What do their differing perspectives tell us about how science communication is changing and how we can do it better? The Elizabeth Kolbert and Stuart Pimm conversation now posted.

    http://journalism.nyu.edu/graduate/programs/science-health-and-environmental-reporting/kavli-conversations-on-science-communication/?ref=shortlink

    Reply
  22. coloradobob

     /  October 27, 2016

    Capital Weather Gang
    Arctic sea ice is at a record low and could, in spurts, disappear within our lifetimes

    Sea ice extent in the Arctic is as low as it has ever been measured in late October, and air temperatures are at a record warm. Sea ice experts say it is difficult to project what the current ice depletion means for the next year, but the unmistakable long-term trend toward less ice is troubling.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/10/27/arctic-sea-ice-is-at-a-record-low-and-could-in-spurts-disappear-within-our-lifetimes/

    Reply
    • This is big news coming from NSIDC. As early as 4 years ago they were saying such extreme sea ice losses weren’t possible until mid-Century.

      Reply
    • Tweet scheduled on this, thanks. It’s a shame that Jason is soooo conservative. Use of “in spurts” and “within our lifetime” simply encourages slower response. MHO.

      Reply
      • It absolutely influences weather gang coverage.

        NSIDC is pretty conservative in its own right, but I think WAPO beats it out. In my view, 2017-2018 is a possibility, especially if the slow refreeze trends we are seeing bear out for winter of 2016-2017. Early to mid 2020s are at least 60 percent likely. By 2030s, big chunks of summer and possibly other seasons see no sea ice under current trends for low years. In order to avoid that, the trend basically has to slow down. If you keep burning fossil fuels, that’s not likely to happen.

        As for Jason, it’s got to sting a little going full-on ridiculous ad hominem and then getting that Met Office report which was a confirmation by some of the science that our observations/concerns were legit…

        Hello? Professional courtesy anyone? Something like ‘Gee, sorry Rob, I saw this great chance to elevate myself by publicly tarring and feathering a fellow blogger and playing out of context quotes, false conflation with Paul Beckwith, and bandwagon argumentation fallacy with the scientists I have on auto-dial, but man, I ended up being mostly wrong after all. Dude, sorry man. I wish I hadn’t acted like such a corporate prick…’

        It’s worth noting, with this case in point, that being conservative is no guarantee of being correct.

        Ah well. Enough time spent on nonsense already… Moving on.

        Reply
        • mulga mumblebrain

           /  October 28, 2016

          The only thing that ‘conservatives’ with to conserve is their wealth and power. In this lifetime. The future can go, and is going, to the Devil aka ‘the Market’.

  23. Cate

     /  October 27, 2016

    So after a sharp drop, the Arctic daily mean temp over at DMI edges up again. Where will the yo-yo bottom out?

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

    Reply
    • The refreeze picture at JAXA Arctic Sea Ice Extent is really getting interesting this year.

      I think that during 2015 – 2016, we have stumbled into uncharted territory in the Arctic. A “step change”, as Kevin Trenbarth puts it. We don’t yet have an ice-free Arctic, but as Robert says, there are now vast areas of the Arctic ocean which are essentially ice free for a major part of each year. This is bound to have an effect – NOT a good effect!

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  October 27, 2016

        Absolutely, DaveW. Ongoing concern over on the ASIF threads this season, re area, extent, volume, and now this apparent sluggishness in refreeze. Getting a bit wild out there.

        Reply
  24. Shawn Redmond

     /  October 27, 2016

    Things are speeding up, this problem may be closer than we hope.
    https://thinkprogress.org/climate-change-grass-crops-adaptation-a691974ed765#.3xcvmddpu
    For grasses, however, the researchers found that in most instances, the grasses were not able to adapt to a different environment as quickly as the pace of climate change. In some instances, the climate change outpaced the grasses’ adaptation 20,000-fold.
    Grasses also can’t move easily, because grasses don’t spread their seeds readily over long distances.
    The study only looked at wild crops, not cultivated species used in conventional agriculture, but the researchers said that the results could easily apply to cultivated crops as well.
    “The findings are similar across all the groups so they could be applied to wild species as well as to the cultivated ones,” John Wiens, co-author of the study and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, told BBC News. “There is no way that cultivated species are somehow exempt from our findings.”

    Where the vertebrate/insect declines are concerned in the thread above, 50% is the understood tipping point for most things in both directions, growth or decline, i.e. LD50. I know this is commonly used in toxic lab tests but it tends to apply universally. Thats not to say intervention by humans on behalf of other animals isn’t productive, it is! But at this rate we are quickly becoming caretakers instead of stewards. Hospice earth?

    Reply
    • Cate

       /  October 27, 2016

      Those who think that as the north becomes more temperate, we can simply shift the great North American breadbasket northwards into the parkland and taiga need to read this article.

      In addition: not only will wheat need time to adapt to a new environment, it’s going to have a hard time growing at all in the thin rocky soils of the Canadian shield—no matter how warm the air or how long the growing season. So cross that idea off the list.

      Reply
      • Shawn Redmond

         /  October 27, 2016

        Yes and the point about the rain fall moving north may also be a bit of a problem. Our geography isn’t ready for the increased volumes that our cousins to the south are now working with. If these new rain fall totals start showing up in areas where there is permafrost I think this would be disastrous on many levels. A one off not so much but an ongoing theme?

        Reply
      • Abel Adamski

         /  October 28, 2016

        Relating to wheat, rye and barley.
        DT I am sure will find this of interest
        http://linkis.com/www.eurekalert.org/p/vQx6o

        New study links protein in wheat to the inflammation of chronic health conditions

        The study shows that the consumption of ATIs can lead to the development of inflammation in tissues beyond the gut — further to this, ATIs may contribute to the development of non-celiac gluten sensitivity

        ienna, October 17, 2016) Scientists have discovered that a protein in wheat triggers the inflammation of chronic health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and also contributes towards the development of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.

        With past studies commonly focusing on gluten and its impact on digestive health, this new research, presented at UEG Week 2016, turns the spotlight onto a different family of proteins found in wheat called amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs). The study shows that the consumption of ATIs can lead to the development of inflammation in tissues beyond the gut, including the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen and brain. Evidence suggests that ATIs can worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as inflammatory bowel disease.

        Guess what the Natural health practioners were not the witchdoctors, maybe more apt term for their critics

        Actually good article in the good old scare rag the Inquisitor
        “”Turns Out Gluten-Free Folks Aren’t Crazy: Scientists Find Wheat Proteins That Make People Sicker “

        Reply
  25. Watch the reruns of CSI Miami to see all the properties that will be inundated with water in the next 50 or so years. People won’t believe the crisis until it’s at there door steps which will then be to late to keep from moving. I live in the southwest,NM, which has been in drought status many years and no relief in sight. Our world renowned green chili requires considerable water to grow decently with a dry spell to harvest it. Time’s just seem to be getting tougher every year and no one is power has the gumption to do anything. Well it’s getting late to act before catastrophe strikes all over, yeah it’s here now.

    Reply
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