Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Warming Wednesdays: Seas rising fast

Arctic Sea Ice Concentration in Summer 2007 compared to 1979.NASA map. That yellow line is where the ice used to end -- and this was four years ago.

If greenhouse gases, the byproduct of many human activities, keep increasing in the atmosphere and trapping heat, we'll be living with a 3-5 foot rise in Arctic seas by the end of this century, according to a report from the multi-national Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.

“The observed changes in sea ice on the Arctic Ocean and in the mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic ice caps and glaciers over the past ten years are dramatic and represent an obvious departure from the long-term patterns.”

A few of the key findings:
  • The past six years (2005–2010 have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic
  • The largest and most permanent bodies of ice in the Arctic – multiyear sea ice, mountain glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet – have all been declining faster since 2000 than they did in the previous decade.
  • Loss of ice and snow in the Arctic enhances climate warming by increasing absorption of the sun’s energy at the surface of the planet. It could also dramatically increase emissions of carbon dioxide and methane and change large-scale ocean currents. The combined outcome of these effects is not yet known.
Many links for more here.

If our species is smart, we'll obviously work to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. In climate change lingo, that's called "mitigation." But we've already set in motion processes we can't stop, even if we ceased burning coal and oil today. So we also have to be smart enough to begin planning and building for a different future -- that's called "adaptation." Might as well learn the jargon now; we're all going to have to hear a lot of it.

Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- reminders of an inconvenient truth.

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