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Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Graph

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"Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Graph"

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by Daniel Bailey, via Skeptical Science

It’s happened to all of us. Whether as a child on the school playground missing the call to come back in from recess or later, as teenagers, forgetting to return a library book until it was overdue or as adults realizing with a start that it’s the day after taxes were due and we haven’t done a thing, we’ve all wakened from a walking sleep to realize something we’ve just been missing all along.

For the mainstream media and the average person in general, that thing is the ongoing demise of the Arctic sea ice cover.  And nothing puts facts, especially record-breaking facts, into perspective like a visual aid.  Consider this visual aid provided from RealClimate of the NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent:

Arctic Sea IceVirtually every sea ice metric there is shows a record-breaking loss of the Arctic sea ice “cap” in 2012. With Arctic sea ice dropping off the bottom of existing sea ice graphs, the noted sage Chief Brody from the movie “Jaws” might put it this way:

“We’re gonna need a bigger graph.”


This piece was originally published at Skeptical Science and was reprinted with permission.

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29 Responses to Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Graph

  1. Leif says:

    People everywhere have a garbage fee, waste water fee, I even have a “rainwater run off” fee. How come Corpro/People get to trash the commons for free and still collect unimaginable profits? In fact get tax subsidies! All while “We the People” pick up the tab for mitigation. The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why must progressives subsidize the ecocide of the Planet via fossil fuel subsidies?

  2. Actually, as the Arctic melts down, we’ll soon be back to the original phrase: We’re going to need a bigger boat!

    • Paul Magnus says:

      Yeah, we’re going to need a big Ark.

    • Gill Bates says:

      SEA ICE does not affect sea level rise. Melting LAND ice, like Greenland and Canadian glaciers, will affect sea level rise.

      • turkeyfish says:

        Actually, that is not entirely true, but the effect is indirect. Although ice floating in a glass will not raise the water level when it melts, the situation in the arctic is not entirely analogous. As the amount of sea ice melts, the reflection of sunlight back into space will be reduced, which will raise the temperature of the water. Since glaciers in the arctic are partially over water at their lower extremum and partially over land at their upper extremum, heating of the water weakens and melts the ice at the mouth of the glacier.

        With this ice gone the ice at the upper end of the glacier is free to flow faster. Since the air is warmer as well for longer as well, without a new source of ice to feed the upper extremum of the glacier, the glacier not only retreats landward, but at its source as well. As is now becoming evident in many Andean glaciers and on Kilamanjaro the source too is disappearing and soon there will be no glacier left, merely water running downhill. Since this larger volume of water eventually reaches the sea, the sea level rises. So while, indirect, the processes are interrelated and to a certain extent work simultaneously to form a positive feedback loop until the glacier is gone completely.

      • Joan Savage says:

        Sea level rise has been about half from melting land ice and half from thermal expansion of water.

        Exposing the Arctic Ocean to more sunlight adds to thermal expansion, even if the melted sea ice didn’t add directly to volume.

        For a good source:
        http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/sea_level.html

  3. Kathy says:

    Where you see catastrophe, Mitt and his energy ” policy” sees a great $$$$ opportunity.

  4. Long before sea levels rise, the disappearance of the ice cap will profoundly and abruptly change the weather. Several posts on CP recently point this out.

    Once the Arctic ice cap completely inverts from heat reflector to heat collector, the jet stream is going to whip the globe like an unattended fire hose. The seasonal highs and lows agriculture depends on for predictable rainfall will form in places they shouldn’t, at times they shouldn’t, at magnitudes they shouldn’t. From the point of view of agriculture, it’ll be a total systemic failure.

    Forget the sea level. It’s about the next 20 years. We must reduce GHGs dramatically and immediately to save the ice cap.

    Save the ice cap.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    You won’t find that graph on the evening news, or in any of our newspapers, either. Churchill was able to wake up England because people listened to the radio. Here in the US, ClearChannel, host of Rush Limbaugh, has a near monopoly on the radio waves, which is why the other hosts are right wing, too. Clear Channel’s ownership is Tea Party.

    Corporate media is keeping the truth from Americans, effectively sabotaging change in the whole world. Why should Germany do anything, for example, since Texas alone is spewing more CO2 every year than they are?

    Green organizations refuse to go to the mat with the big media companies, who have succeeded in keeping Americans in the dark. The NYT is horrible, and the rest are worse. Maybe, like Carl Pope, Green leaders want to be able to get the occasional OpEd in the New York Times, or troll for donors among liberal media types, like Maher and DiCaprio.

    Meanwhile, Romney gets his biggest laughter/applause line when he accuses Obama of trying to roll back the oceans.

    Media companies must be subject to a full court press, or we are doomed. Is anybody listening?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      But this is capitalism, red in tooth and claw, in action. Capitalism exists, like cancer, to grow forever, to infinitely reproduce and grow the stock of money and concentrate it in as few hands as possible. To keep this suicidal scam going, the capitalist elect use their MSM, advertising and entertainment industries to endlessly brainwash people. As humanity is generally intellectually incurious and frankly dull, the indoctrination works perfectly. The dullards, when faced with the choice between their consumption of stuff (it validates their materialistic existence)and the fate of ‘others’ yet unborn, opt for self-indulgence. Sacrifice is for, and of, other people.

      • Spike says:

        Mankind has waged war on nature for too long now – we see it in climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, pollution, invasive introduced species, habitat destruction etc.. Virtually anything we come across we wage war on – for profits sake. The oil companies plans for the Arctic are a surreal example.

        And in waging war on Nature you may for a time appear to win – only to discover that you are, as events pan out, on the losing side.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          The destruction of Nature, the unending war on the living planet that sustains us, is “The Sin for which there is no forgiveness”, so we may at least pray that God really does exist, so that those responsible in this world will at least face Justice in the next.

  6. Chris says:

    We are literally and figuratively going into uncharted waters.

  7. Jack Burton says:

    This year is the big wake up call in the Arctic. I have witnessed the Greenland meltdown over the past 30 years. I admit my last flight over Greenland was all the way back in September 2006, but even then Greenland’s high glaciers were a sea of blue melt water lakes and fast flows rivers cutting across the ice surface. This was something you would not have seen much of in the 1980′s on similar Sept. flights.
    More than anything, this 2006 flight brought home to me that global warming was already uncontrolled. After this all the very conservative reports and models of Greenland and arctic sea ice melt going forward read like fossil fuel industry propaganda, though it was real scientific research. I felt in my bones that a tipping point of sorts had already been past, maybe an intermediate tipping point on the way to a big tipping point, but a real change had occurred.
    I am amazed at the slack response of the media to this story, and the blogs have gone nuclear with denial posts under each story that does deal with the record arctic melt.
    The desperation and vigor of the denial posts are a clear sign of rising anger among this group that data just keeps proving them dead wrong!
    I hope posterity keeps good records of this denial effort and who is behind it and who the useful idiots are. When the history books are written for my great grandkids, there will be much to be said about those who fought tooth and nail to burn more fossil fuels, not less, even as the global warming intensified around them.
    It is now madness to continue business as usual, but not only are American political forces determined to continue business as usual, they are determined to cover up reality and increase fossil fuel burning to the absolute maximum extent possible.
    We are truly on a path to destruction and can’t seem to get there fast enough for so called conservatives. Though what conservative and destroying our planets livability have to do with each other I will never know!

    • “The desperation and vigor of the denial posts are a clear sign of rising anger among this group that data just keeps proving them dead wrong!”

      Th rising anger of the deniers is the biggest and most immediate threat of climate change.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        That’s the Rightwing Authoritarian Personality type. When faced with opposition, by other people or the laws of science, they grow aggressive, bellicose and very, very, dangerous. We have seen nothing yet in the depths to which they will descend in order to get their way, as they are used to doing.

    • Artful Dodger says:

      2007 was the big wake-up call in the Arctic. Instead, the Corporate Media hit the snooze button. 2012 is the sound of the bus rolling past our stop while we slumber.

      The next warning will be like a blaring smoke alarm when all the Summer sea ice disappears. But many folks will simply get out of bed, remove the battery from the alarm, and return to the land of dreams.

      Climate change will finally hit home when people can’t sleep because their bellies are empty, and the Disaster Sirens keep them awake.

  8. Andy Lee says:

    We’re going to need a bigger planet.

    However, like Petri dishes and hard disks – bigger ones just delay the inevitable big sort-out.

    We have to teach our genes about sustainability and coopetition.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Cooperation and competition are not in our genes: they are in our forms of organization which can be changed, ME

  9. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Even as the melting continues, the freeze up has begun. At the pole the ice concentrations have skyrocketed, temperatures are dropping around the Arctic.

    Soon the melt will meet the freeze up. So we will still have some ice left, this year.

    Already the result is jaw dropping, and we will loose more extent yet. But if you look at the exponential fit to the data, then this really should not have been such a surprise.

    If you still think a linear trend is the appropriate fit, then get ready for more jaw dropping over the next few years. Am I certain exponential is the best fit? No; but it a much, much, better fit than a line.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Jason recently posted on the work of Thom and Catastrophe Theory which was based on systems science rather than reductionist science. Looks like the evidence is coming in, ME

  10. SqueakyRat says:

    Looking at the graph, the remarkable thing is that the curve is so steep so late.

  11. After reading this article this morning, I got an email from Climate Code Red. Australian blogger David Spratt writes that Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, is predicting that the arctic summer ice will be gone by 2015. 2015!!

    Spratt writes “Wadhams is basing his prediction in part on a new range of more specialised regional climate models, and in particular a model (acronym NAME) developed by Dr Wieslaw Maslowski and colleagues. Maslowski is highly regarded, in part because his position at the American Naval Postgraduate School has given him unique access to half a century of Arctic sea-ice thickness scans from sub-polar US military submarines.”

    Essentially, 3/4 of the ice volume has already melted. How long will the last 1/4 take to go?

    Here’s the reference:

    http://www.climatecodered.org/2012/08/big-call-cambridge-prof-predicts-arctic.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ClimateCodeRed+%28climate+code+red%29