Tag Archive | "Arctic"

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Ozone Holes and Record Heat: Good News….Maybe

Posted on 22 November 2012 by Jerry

The good news is destruction of the ozone and hence the size of the ozone hole over Antarctica has diminished to a point that is the second smallest of the last 20 years. Last year’s new ozone hole over the Arctic, which caused great consternation, has not reappeared and its stratospheric ozone appears to have returned to a normal range. This might indicate that the objective of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, signed twenty-five years ago this September, is beginning to be realized.  Or it might indicate that ozone holes, which depend on ultra cold temperatures in the stratosphere, do not form in the face of record heat and/or climate change. It is too soon to tell but any lessening of ozone destruction is a good outcome.

The National Climate Data Center Chief, Deke Arndt, reports that 2012, at the present rate, will be the warmest year in the past 100 years in the United States (see the video presentation on the third link identified below).  With 16 months of average temperatures above normal, this year will break records for the warmest March, the warmest spring, the warmest July and the third warmest summer.  The old records will be exceeded by a wide margin.

This year’s Antarctic ozone hole covered an average area of only 6.9 million square miles (17.9 million square kilometers).  The largest size of this year’s ozone hole was reached on September 22, when the hole covered 8.2 million square miles or an area the size of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined.  This is however, significantly smaller than the record ozone hole which encompassed 11.5 million square miles (29.9 million square kilometers) in 2000.

While climate scientists do not have enough information to correlate the diminishing destruction of the ozone with the rising temperatures of the United States and the world, the possibility of a relationship is a reality.  In any case, the shrinking of the ozone hole(s) means the ultraviolet radiation humans receive is lessened which reduces the incidence of skin cancers and other maladies.

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Significant Changes in the Arctic and Greenland

Posted on 01 September 2012 by Jerry

Unfortunately two new records are being set in the Arctic.  The first is that carbon dioxide levels at the Arctic have reached a new milestone by passing 400 parts per million.  The second is that the Arctic has lost more sea ice than at any time since satellite images were begun in 1979. 

The significance of this is that these trends are synergistic and scientists fear that at some point they will create a self-reinforcing sequence of events.  The potential consequent spiral of deterioration is described as follows.  As the carbon dioxide level rises in the Arctic, which is a leading indicator of what will happen with the rest of the planet, more heat is trapped by the atmosphere which causes a temperature rise.  As the temperature rises, more Arctic ice melts exposing more open water.  Open water does not reflect heat as efficiently as ice so water temperatures rise which melts even more ice.  As the water temperature rises, frozen seabed permafrost melts releasing large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.  This in turn increases the atmosphere’s ability to trap heat, which increases the temperature of the Arctic, and so on.

Arctic sea ice grows in the winter and diminishes in the summer causing a seasonal ebb and flow.  Complicating winter replenishment is the declining thickness of “perennial” ice, which has been in place on a year-round basis for many years and is more resistant to melting.  When this ice begins to melt it makes summer ice even more vulnerable.  Diminishing the thickness and shrinking the area of the ice footprint reduces the summer ice volume to only 30% of its size in the 1980’s, as measured by submarines.

The Arctic is not the only region experiencing significant ice melt.  The scientific community is alarmed by Greenland’s extremely rapid ice melt in July of 2012.  In just four days the thawed ice area of Greenland jumped from 40% to 97%.  Up until now the highest melting as seen by satellites in the last 30 years has been about 55% of Greenland’s total area.  Mary Albert, an ice expert at Dartmouth College indicated this was the first significant melt at the site since 1889.  Ice core samples point to  a similar rapid ice melt in 1946, although to a much lesser degree.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the planet has been steadily rising since the beginning of the industrial age when it stood at 275 parts per million.  The planet’s carbon dioxide level now stands at 395 parts per million.  With the Arctic passing the level of 400 parts per million it means that in a few short years the rest of the world will follow.  Beyond the Arctic, these high readings have already been recorded in Greenland, Alaska, Norway, Iceland and Mongolia. 

Climate change deniers point out that carbon dioxide levels have changed over the millennia with CO2 having been above 400 parts per million about 800,000 years ago.  Today’s climate scientists point out that historically there were a number of factors that existed to produce those high concentrations.  Those factors are missing today.  Present concentrations can only be explained by acknowledging the contribution that human beings make to carbon dioxide levels as a result of industrialization.

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Your Intervention to Protect the Arctic

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Jerry

Ice is melting in the Arctic and as a result it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe.  Sea lanes are opening up for longer periods in the year prompting attention from nations seeking to exploit the Arctic’s underwater oil, gas, and mineral resources.  Unlike Antarctica, which is protected by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, the only protection for the North Pole is that it is defined in international treaties as the high seas.  Unfortunately several countries are attempting to enforce territorial boundaries and actively lay claim to the seabed.  This includes Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the United States, all of which lay claim to various parts of the Arctic.

Examples of the attention the Arctic is receiving include recent military war games, Exercise Cold Response, hosted by Norway involving 16,300 troops from 14 countries.  The exercise involved “training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats…. The U.S., Canada and Denmark held their own major exercises and hosted a meeting of the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers – Canada, the U.S., Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.” 

A June 2, 2012 Reuters article reports on a recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating, “Clinton boarded a research ship in Tromso, a Norwegian town north of the Arctic Circle, to illustrate U.S. interests in a once inaccessible region where resources are up for grabs and new sea routes between Europe and Asia are opening up.  ‘A lot of countries are looking at what will be the potential for exploration and extraction of natural resources as well as new sea lanes,’ Clinton told reporters after taking a two-hour boat tour of the local fjord.”

Recognizing that this type of attention and development can only accelerate the melting of the sea ice and further contribute to global warming, Greenpeace has marshaled celebrities and citizens from around the world calling for the Arctic to be designated a drill free reserve where all plant and animal species are protected.  This would put it on a similar footing as Antarctica.

Greenpeace has launched an effort to get 1,000,000 signatures on-line on a petition to be circulated around the world and planted at the North Pole to encourage nations to step up and protect the Arctic.  You can participate, if you hurry, by adding your name to the petition at www.savethearctic.org

You will be in good company joining other signers who include Sir Paul McCartney, Jack White, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Edward Norton, Sir Richard Branson, and Lucy Lawless.  Other signers include Radiohead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Emily Blunt, Baaba Maal, Javier Bardem, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, and a group of China’s most famous musicians.  You can be amongst the nine Oscar winners, ten Golden Globe winners and five Grammy Award winners who are signers of the petition.

This kind of direct action, while symbolic, represents your desire to keep countries and companies from exploiting and accelerating the very global warming they have created.  Adding your name to this petition is a small step to slow an accelerating problem.

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