Greenland’s Ice = 23 Feet of Sea Water
Things are heating up, according to the National Geographic News of July 25, 2012: “After just a few days of intense melting this month, nearly the entire surface of
Putting this into historical context, according to satellite record keeping, on average, only about one-half of
According to scientists, if similar widespread thawing occurs more frequently due to climate change, sea levels could rise up to 23 feet—assuming all of Greenland melts, which is a big assumption—and it would completely submerge London and Los Angeles, and goodbye to New Orleans. Unfortunately, this past summer’s thaw only scratches the surface. What happens to the lakes formed by surface thaw during the warm season?
According to Science Daily, “Greenland May Be Slip-Sliding Away Due to Surface Lake Melting,” (April 16, 2012): “Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, Greenland’s Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of melt water from surface lakes.” During the warm season, thousands of supraglacial lakes form on the surface of
The question then is what’s next? Does the melt water travel one to two miles below to bedrock and serve as a lubricant, sliding the ice sheet’s glide into the ocean? Does the drainage efficiently route the water through glacial sewers to the ocean without traveling to bedrock? Or does the drainage refreeze into the ice sheet? As of today, scientists consider the melt lake drainages to be a wild card for enhancing the ice sheet’s slide.
Regardless of whether melt lakes are seriously undercutting the ice from
Solar Heat on Ice
The issues associated with ice sheet dynamics are only one set of complications. New findings indicate sun reflectivity off the ice sheet, particularly at high elevations where snow typically accumulates year-round, has reached record lows, meaning the annual snow fall is melting too quickly to serve as a giant reflector of the sun, as it has done for centuries. Therefore, the ice sheet is absorbing more sun energy, leading to record melt years. According to polar researcher Jason Box of
Albedo is the scientific term for the amount of radiation from the sun that reflects off the surface and according to Greenland Ice Sheet Albedo Feedback “Thermodynamics and Atmospheric Drivers” (the Cryosphere, 2012): “In the 12 years beginning in 2000, the reduced albedo, combined with a significant increase in downward solar irradiance, yielded an accumulation area net radiation increase…. Another similar decade may be sufficient to shift the average summer accumulation area radiation budget from negative to positive, resulting in an abrupt ice sheet melt area increase.”
The Tipping Point
This month, at the height of the melt season,
Recent scientific modeling indicates a tipping point for total melting of the ice sheet of global temperatures at around 1.6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, while there is another model that has the measurement at a lower range of possibility for a total melt of only 0.8 Celsius—which is equal to today’s global temperature. Hence, it appears that temperatures are already close to the tipping point.
“In the last interglacial age 125,000 years ago, called the Eemian, global temperature was only 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial, i.e., only a couple of tenths of a degree warmer than today. Yet, the poles were several degrees warmer.
There was no summer sea ice in the Arctic and multiple studies using different methodologies indicate sea level was 6-9 meters (20-30 feet) higher, meaning at least partial melting of the
“All this points to the conclusion we may already be getting close to a dangerous tipping level of global warming. If humanity rapidly cuts global CO2 emissions to zero or near zero, it might be possible to return the Earth to energy balance and prevent much further warming. If business-as-usual emissions continue for much longer, there is a risk that eventual melting of the
Today, people of high rank in
According to sociologists Riley Dunlap (Oklahoma St. Univ.) and Aaron McCright (Michigan St. Univ.) in The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, climate denialism exists because there has been a long-term, well-financed effort by conservative groups to distort global-warming science: “Contrarian scientists, fossil-fuel corporations, conservative think tanks, and various front groups have assaulted mainstream climate science and scientists for over two decades.”
For example, there are people out there who advocate more carbon dioxide levels. According to Mike Ludwig on Truthout: “Craig Idso, chair of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and other think tanks, receives $11,600 per month from Heartland. Idso’s study center is funded in part by Exxon Mobile and he recently spoke on the benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual meeting…. The Charles G. Koch Foundation- funded Heartland’s proposed 2012 budget includes $75,000 to develop a ‘Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms’.” One of their strongest arguments in support of more carbon dioxide levels is that: plants and trees love it.
Much more alarming is the risk of underwater coastlines does not take into account Antarctica, which is roughly the size of the
A new satellite survey of Antarctica (Science, October) recalibrated data, and that recalibration, according to Matt King at the
The Big Fix
Although there is no way for anybody to know if, or when, corrective action is early enough or too late, a fix may be possible, depending on how quickly political will takes control over haphazard efforts to go green. Alternative energy resources, i.e., algae fuel, wind turbines, tides, geothermal, electric cars, solar, hydro, and biofuels are already commercially viable and ready for worldwide installation/development, thus, abandoning fossil fuels altogether—with the exception of airplanes and whatever’s absolutely necessary for industry. This may eliminate CO2 similar to how the world joined together to successfully eliminate chlorofluorocarbons to resolve the ozone hole dilemma in the 1980s.
A worldwide effort to eliminate fossil fuels, as quickly as humanly possible, would be a bonanza for western economies and for the planet, prompting an economic renaissance of strong growth for the entire world, low unemployment, and a clean, healthy planet, ushering in worldwide economic growth as carbon-based energy is replaced, employing millions upon millions in clean energy conversions on a scale equivalent to sending person to the moon 50 years ago. But where’s the political will?
Robert Hunziker lives in