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Thursday, 25 September 2008

The global event

In this edition:

  1. As Arctic Sea Ice Melts, Experts Expect New Low
  2. Arctic Ice Hints at Warming, Specialists Say
  3. Strongest Storms Grow Stronger Yet, Study Says
  4. Experts Confirm Open Water Circling Arctic
Over-all comment is that we see clearer evidences of Global Warming. Notice how the US Ice Center first denied that the Arctic gets surrounded by water and when they figured they cannot hide it, they finally admitted it. What did they think, they cannot possibly hide something that big? Oh, whatever. Just next time you think about conspiracies, remember how that agency reacted and ask yourself Why!

As Arctic Sea Ice Melts, Experts Expect New Low

Geoff York/World Wildlife Fund, via Reuters

Published: August 27, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported that sea ice in the Arctic now covers about 2.03 million square miles. The lowest point since satellite measurements began in 1979 was 1.65 million square miles, last September.

With about three weeks left in the Arctic summer, this year could wind up breaking that record, scientists said.

Arctic ice always melts in summer and refreezes in winter. But over the years, more of the ice is lost to the sea with less of it recovered in winter. While ice reflects the sun’s heat, the open ocean absorbs more heat, and the melting accelerates warming in other parts of the world.

Sea ice also serves as primary habitat for threatened polar bears.

Five climate scientists, four of them specialists on the Arctic, told The Associated Press that it was fair to call what was happening in the Arctic a “tipping point.”

Last year was an unusual year when wind currents and other weather conditions coincided with global warming to worsen sea ice melt, Dr. Serreze said. Scientists wondered if last year was an unusual event or the start of a new and disturbing trend.

This year’s results suggest the latter because the ice had recovered a bit more than usual thanks to a somewhat cooler winter, Dr. Serreze said. Then this month, when the melting rate usually slows, it sped up instead, he said.

The most recent ice retreat primarily reflects melt in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska’s northwest coast, and the East Siberian Sea, off the coast of eastern Russia, according to the center.

The Chukchi Sea is home to one of two populations of Alaska polar bears.

Federal observers flying for a whale survey on Aug. 16 spotted nine polar bears swimming in open ocean in the Chukchi. The bears were 15 to 65 miles off the Alaska shore. Some were swimming north, apparently trying to reach the polar ice edge, which on that day was 400 miles away.

Polar bears are powerful swimmers and have been recorded on swims of 100 miles, but the ordeal can leave them exhausted and susceptible to drowning.

And the melt in sea ice has kicked in another effect, long predicted, called “Arctic amplification,” Dr. Serreze said.

That is when the warming up north is increased in a feedback mechanism and the effects spill southward starting in autumn, Dr. Serreze said. Over the last few years, the bigger melt has meant more warm water that releases more heat into the air during fall cooling, making the atmosphere warmer than normal.

On top of that, researchers are investigating “alarming” reports in the last few days of the release of methane from long-frozen Arctic waters, possibly from the warming of the sea, said Bill Hare, a Greenpeace climate scientist, who was attending a climate conference in Ghana. Giant burps of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, is a long-feared effect of warming in the Arctic that would accelerate warming even more, according to scientists. source

My comment: I can't say I'm surprised, but still it's not pleasant to hear it. I like how the article leaves the implication aside, I'm so so sick of politicising the issue. Not because it shouldn't, but because in USA that means that you leave 50% of the population aside, they get all hostile to you and don't even consider the facts. While facts are clear, there is a Global Warming and there is human reason in it and most importantly, there are things that we can change in order to if not else, to slow it down.

Arctic Ice Hints at Warming, Specialists Say

Published: September 6, 2008

Leading ice specialists in Europe and the United States for the first time have agreed that a ring of navigable waters has opened all around the fringes of the cap of sea ice drifting on the warming Arctic Ocean.

By many expert accounts, this is the first time the Northwest Passage over North America and the Northern Sea Route over Europe and Asia have been open simultaneously in at least half a century, if not longer.

While currents and winds play a role, experts say, the expanding open water in the far north provides the latest evidence that the Arctic Ocean, long a frozen region hostile to all but nuclear submariners and seal hunters, is transforming during the summers into more of an open ocean.

Global warming from the continuing buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases is almost certainly contributing to the ice retreats, many Arctic specialists now agree, although they hold a variety of views on how much of the recent big ice retreats is due to human activity.

Last month, news reports said that satellites showed navigable waters through both fabled Arctic shipping routes.

But those satellite findings were disputed by the United States National Ice Center, run by the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The center said the satellites monitoring the ice were fooled by broad stretches of fresh water pooling atop ice floes, which can resemble open sea lanes.

On Friday, though, citing fresh images using sensors that can more carefully distinguish ice from water, the Ice Center concurred, issuing a statement concluding, “This is the first recorded occurrence of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route both being open at the same time.”

For years, polar scientists have been predicting that warming is driving the region into a new, more watery state. With further warming, they say, broad open-water expanses will prevail in the summer followed by the formation of ice in the winter. But such ice will generally be too thin to last through the next summer.

In essence, Arctic waters may be behaving more like those around Antarctica, where a broad fringe of sea ice builds each winter and nearly disappears in the summer. Reflecting the complexity of the global climate, the extent of winter sea ice in Antarctica has been expanding of late. source

My comment:

Experts Confirm Open Water Circling Arctic

It appears that the age-old shipping lane along Russia’s Arctic coast, the Northeast Passage, is wide open, as is one route through the Northwest Passage over Canada, according to a map of sea ice on Sept. 2, created by German scientists using NASA satellite data. The inset shows an area that typically is clogged with ice. An American ice-tracking agency had said the route was not open, but on Friday confirmed that the ice had parted and a navigable route existed. (Credit: Institute of Oceanography/ University of Hamburg)

[UPDATE 9/6: The National Ice Center on Friday said that a navigable passage has opened through sea ice along the entire Russian Arctic coast, although the center added that patches of dangerous thick ice still pepper the area. In a statement, the center said: "This is the first recorded occurrence of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route both being open at the same time." The full statement is below in the comment string. Here's an animation loop of the retreating sea ice.]

There have been some breathless headlines in the last few days about the North Pole’s being an “island” for the first time in 125,000 years. Aside from the fact that 90 degrees north sits in the middle of a 2.5-mile-deep ocean, that’s quite a statement considering two things: first, no one has been routinely monitoring sea ice along both coastlines between then and now, and second, the region was clearly warmer than it is today (in summers) around 8,000 to 10,000 years ago — on both the Siberian and North American sides.

Headlines and shipping lanes aside, it’s becoming clearer that the Arctic Ocean of our history and lore — an ice-locked region hostile to humans (except for seal-hunting Inuit and the crews of nuclear submarines) — is transforming in summers to a place where ships may in a few decades find reliable short cuts between Asian manufacturers and distant markets, where polar bears may be fewer and thinner, where oil and gas rigs may increasingly dot the land and sea. Human-driven global warming is almost certainly playing a growing role in the region, although experts still say there are large natural fluctuations involved as well.

Efforts to propel aggressive action to cut risks from building greenhouse gases face many challenges, and one is surely the “shifting baselines” of human awareness over time. Jeremy Jackson has convincingly asserted that this trait has largely masked the near destruction of ocean fish stocks. Robert Brulle has noted how it has blunted communities’ awareness of degrading environments. source

My comment: Funnily enough, humans we're really great optimists and we find always the bright side in the darkness. Which is cool, of course, but still, I think there is some deviation from the major issue-the Planet is changing and it's doing it NOW! Which leaves us very few way to hand-wave (or shmatkam in bulgarian). Think about it...

Strongest Storms Grow Stronger Yet, Study Says

Published: September 3, 2008

A new study finds that the strongest of hurricanes and typhoons have become even stronger over the last two and a half decades, adding grist to the contentious debate over whether global warming has already made storms more destructive.

“I think we do see a climate signal here,” said James B. Elsner, a professor of geography at Florida State University who is the lead author of the paper, being published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The study, which also found that more typical, less powerful tropical storms had not become stronger over the 26-year period studied, is consistent with other researchers’ hurricane models, Dr. Elsner said.

With oceans expected to continue warming, “one would expect more 4s and 5s,” he said of Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes, those with maximum sustained winds of at least 131 miles per hour.

About 90 tropical cyclone storms form each year around the world. In the Atlantic, the stronger ones, with winds of at least 74 m.p.h., are hurricanes; the equivalents in the Pacific and Indian Oceans are typhoons. Ten named storms have formed in the Atlantic this hurricane season, which continues to the end of November.

Heat from the warming oceans will provide more energy to spin up hurricanes and typhoons, but the changing climate could also heighten conditions like wind shear — winds blowing at different speeds and different directions at different altitudes — that tend to tear a storm apart.

Because of these environmental factors, most storms fall far short of their maximum possible intensity. But Dr. Elsner, along with Thomas H. Jagger, a postdoctoral researcher at Florida State, and James P. Kossin, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reasoned that warmer waters increased the possible intensity and that storms that develop in ideal conditions might have become stronger.

Having examined satellite data from 1981 through 2006, a period in which sea surface temperature rose to 83.3 degrees Fahrenheit from 82.8 degrees, they concluded that the highest wind speeds of the strongest storms averaged 156 m.p.h. in 2006, up from 140 m.p.h. hour in 1981. The increases in cyclone intensity were greatest in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Because the data came from one set of satellites, the scientists avoided some of the calibration difficulties that had troubled earlier studies.

“This study offers definitive evidence that there are more of the very strongest hurricanes around the world, even though the total number of storms globally shows hardly any trend,” said Kerry A. Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who suggested in 2005 that global warming had already intensified cyclones.

Christopher W. Landsea, science and operations manager at the National Hurricane Center, who has been skeptical of the connection, said the statistical methodology in the new study was excellent. But Dr. Landsea questioned the underlying data, particularly corrections for data taken from the Indian Ocean before 1997, when there were fewer satellites observing the storms. source

My comment: Well, obviously whatever research you make, they will always someone to question it. But still, my observations that are totally unsystematic show severing of the weather meaning that hot days get hotter, cold-colder, floods-wetter and whatever.

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