Today I give thanks for my childhood. I grew up on a planet where global warming had just begun — a place your children will never know.
It was a beautiful planet. It seems like a long time ago. This was before the drought killed 100 million trees in California, a third of all trees in the state. New Orleans had not yet drowned under flood waters. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia was still healthy, not yet bleached by the raging heat.
But the biggest difference was near the North Pole. Back when I started college in 1979, the volume of Arctic sea ice in summer was 4 times what is now!
Last winter was especially shocking. In February, the climate scientist Peter Gleick wrote:What is happening in the Arctic now is unprecedented and possibly catastrophic.
The extent of Arctic sea ice had shrunk to record lows, while the temperature hit new record highs for winter. In December 2015, parts of the North Pole were covered with a lake!
A unique event? No: this year again scientists are shocked! Here's what I read today on phys.org
:Freakishly high temperatures in the Arctic driven by heat-packed oceans and northward winds have been reinforced by a "vicious circle" of climate change, scientists said Thursday.Air above the Polar ice cap has been 9-12 degrees Celsius (16.2 to 21.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average during the last four weeks, according the data from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), which tracks hourly changes in Arctic weather.And during several days last week, temperatures above the North Pole were a balmy zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), a full 20 C (36 F) above the levels typical for mid-November, said Martin Stendel, a DMI climate researcher based in Copenhagen."This is by far the highest recorded" in the era of satellite data, starting in 1979, he told AFP. "What we are observing is very unusual."At this time of year, open Arctic ocean exposed by sea ice melted away in summer should be freezing again, with thousands of square kilometres icing over every day. But that has not been happening, at least not at the same pace, said Stendel."Not only was the ice not growing as it would normally, there was further melting due to warm air coming in," he explained by phone.The US National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice extent in October was the lowest on record, some 6.4 million square kilometres (2.5 million square miles). Ice cover at the top of the globe shrank to its smallest area in 2016 — some 4.14 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles) — on September 16.Several factors have caused the Arctic to overheat since late October, say scientists. The most immediate are warm winds sweeping up from western Europe and off the west coast of Africa."The winds carrying this heat is a temporary — and fairly unprecedented — weather phenomenon," said Valerie Masson Delmotte, a scientist at the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory in Paris". Only since Thursday have they abated.A second contributor is the record-strong Pacific Ocean El Nino that tapered off earlier this year — after pumping a couple tenths of a degree of added warming into the atmosphere.But reinforcing these periodic, if powerful, drivers is the biggest one of all: global warming, experts agreed.
Two days ago, I read this on LiveScience:The Arctic Is a Seriously Weird Place Right NowThe sun set on the North Pole more than a month ago, not to rise again until spring. Usually that serves as a cue for sea ice to spread its frozen tentacles across the Arctic Ocean. But in the depths of the polar night, a strange thing started to happen in mid-October. Sea ice growth slowed to a crawl and even started shrinking for a bit.Intense warmth in both the air and oceans is driving the mini-meltdown at a time when Arctic sea ice should be rapidly growing. This follows last winter, when temperatures saw a huge December spike.Even in an age where climate change is making outliers — lowest maximum sea ice extent set two years in a row, the hottest year on record set three years in a row, global coral bleaching entering a third year — the norm, what's happening in the Arctic right now stands out for just how outlandish it is."I've never seen anything like it this last year and half," Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said.The latest twist in the Arctic sea ice saga began in mid-October. Temperatures stayed stuck in their September range, pausing sea ice growth. By the end of the month, the Arctic was missing a chunk of ice the size of the eastern U.S. The oddness continued into November. A large area of the Arctic saw temperatures as much as 36°F above normal, further slowing Arctic sea ice growth and even turning it around for a few days. In other words, it was so warm in the Arctic that despite the lack of sunlight, sea ice actually disappeared. "The ridiculously warm temperatures in the Arctic during October and November this year are off the charts over our 68 years of measurements," Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who studies the Arctic, said. Compounding the warm air is warm water. Sea surface temperatures on the edge of the ice are also running well above normal in many places, further inhibiting sea ice growth.
Things will keep getting stranger — freakishly violent storms in the east and southeast US, droughts and fires in the west, and so on.
I'm thankful I grew up on a different planet. I remember it fondly, and it makes me want to save what we have now.
Here's the phys.org
Here's the LiveScience article:http://www.livescience.com/56954-arctic-sea-ice-record-low.html
Both of these were mentioned on +Azimuth
by +rasha kamel
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This is Peter Gleick's tweet last February, with a graph:https://twitter.com/PeterGleick/status/702953140853690368
Here's the video showing the Arctic sea ice minimum volume each year:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NP0L1PG9ag