Climate

Arctic Death Spiral: The Video

Last week, I reported that leading scientific experts were warning we could see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” in a decade — if volume trends continue.

Here’s a short video showing those ominous trends from 1979 through early September 2012:

Since 1979, the volume of summer Arctic sea ice has declined by 75% and accelerating.…  This video by Andy Lee Robinson illustrates the dramatic decline from 1979 until September 2, 2012 (day 246). Sea ice volume is calculated using the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System [PIOMAS].

And that is why what’s happening in the Arctic deserves the label “death spiral.” The main conclusion of the PIOMAS modeling — thinner and thinner ice — has been verified by The European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe.

The serious consequences of the death spiral are discussed in these two post:

And you can hear some leading experts on the Arctic talk about sea ice trends in this Radio EcoShock show:

Rutgers scientist Jennifer Francis explains how this changes weather for billions of people in the Northern Hemisphere. Plus the Director of the Snow and Ice Data Center, Mark Serreze, on [the recent sea ice] record and what it means, and analysis from polar scientist Jennifer Bitz, U of Washington.

This post has been updated.

24 Responses to Arctic Death Spiral: The Video

  1. Hat tip to Andy Lee Robinson, author of the ‘PIOMAS 3D Chart’ video. Well Done!

  2. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    Thanks Lodger! :) It’s still a work in progress.

    To me, the message in this data is so profound, and so frightening to anyone that can read a graph, that I hope that it’ll go viral and kick the dominant yet doomed life-forms on this planet into actually doing something about it and taking responsibility.

    The Arctic canary stopped singing in 2007 and fell off its perch this year. Time for action.

    If this data represented the financial health of any corporation, there would be carnage in the boardroom, deniers heads would roll and a damned sight more would get done!

  3. Jack Burton says:

    While I agree that the jury is in on global warming, the forces that fight acceptance of it are very powerful and committed to fighting action that may cut into their profits.
    The fossil fuel industry and it’s many supporters seem to have no qualms about continuing and even expanding the drive to discover and develop more fossil fuels.
    Loo around you! Canadian Tar Sands are going full blast, deep water drilling and now they are working on harvesting methane hydrates from the shallow seas.
    Taken together, the drive for more fossil fuels the drive for more economic growth and the drive by China and India to match the west in standard of living has programmed our own death spiral!
    Objectively looking at where we are headed and the single minded political will to continue the fossil fuel age on steroids leaves no room for those wanting action.
    I doubt any action will be taken until the earth is in a full blown climate crisis. That means worst case scenario is now Built In and a sure bet.

  4. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    I’m well aware of it, and have been for several decades. :(
    The vultures are sitting on the 75th parallel waiting to gorge on the Arctic carcass for a paltry 3 year’s-worth of global supply.

    Mining Canadian tarsands is just like a nicotine addict raiding ashtrays for butts.
    Leave it alone.

    How can a supposedly intelligent life-form hit the walls of its Petri dish and keep consuming knowing that it is causing its destruction and yet not try to find a sustainable solution?

  5. Charles says:

    “If this data represented the financial health of any corporation, there would be carnage in the boardroom, deniers heads would roll and a damned sight more would get done!”

    And therein lies part of the problem. Too many folks don’t realize what such events represent–the declining “health” of our environment and the impact this will have on us. And, of course, there are plenty of vested interests who are happy to keep things that way.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sorry, Andy, but the denialists are even more frantic than ever, and their MSM enablers have simply ignored this unfolding disaster. As far as I can see, there is zero chance that the Rightwing forces that control this planet will ever cease to destroy the planet’s biospheres in pursuit of money.

  7. ColoradoBob says:

    Permafrost soils in Canada’s Arctic are melting at a rate that will significantly speed up global warming, according to new research from the University of Victoria.

    The study, published this week in Nature Geoscience, predicts that the thawing permafrost will release between 68 billion and 508 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by the year 2100.

    As a result of those carbon emissions, researchers say the Earth’s temperature will rise by more than 0.5 C by the end of the century
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/09/11/science-uvic-permafrost-carbon.html

  8. Lionel A says:

    Andy, superb video and convincing to anyone with half a brain.

    I like your nicotine addicts raiding ashtrays quip (I am currently reading Robert Proctor’s ‘Golden Holocaust‘ and the parallels of denial strategies between tobacco ills and AGW are stark), this should go viral along with the video.

    Sadly ‘the usual suspects’, led by McIntyre, are using the Stephen Lewandowsky’s survey as a smoke screen to avoid information on the true state of the Arctic reaching a mass audience.

  9. John McCormick says:

    Andy, that graph is the strongest evidence I have ever seen depicted on a single frame.

  10. Gail says:

    Depressing. 1979 was the year my first child was born. The loss of sea ice just reinforces the notion that tipping points were crossed long ago, and the only question that really remains is how quickly climate change will accelerate.

    A good article today from Climate Code Red about the loss of ice and amplifying feedbacks that are far outpacing expectations in the 2007 IPCC:

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/arctic-warning-as-the-system-changes-we-must-adjust-our-science-74779

    Which asks the question, why aren’t scientists and green activist organizations incorporating the new data into their predictions?

    My response was this:

    You ask “Is this another form of climate science denial?” To which I would say absolutely yes and it’s been going on for a long time. Delusional hope affects even scientists and sadly, many large green organizations are corrupted by corporate donations.

    The fact is that tipping points have been irrevocably crossed and were some time ago. As if that weren’t bad enough, the only way – and there is a tremendous reluctance to face it – to make the drastic reductions in CO2 that would be required would necessitate fuel rationing, for starters, and a complete upheaval of the ideology that clings to perpetual growth – of our population and our individual consumption.

    As it become increasingly clear that we are approaching bottleneck, the human species in all its splendid perversity is doubling down on wastefulness and greed.

    Another form of rampant denial is that, in parallel with the death of coral reefs, the forests all over the world are dying. To the extent it is acknowledged, generally insects, disease and fungus are blamed – or else drought from climate change. All of these influences however are piling on top of the inexorably increasing level of persistent, background tropospheric ozone, which is toxic to vegetation. The immunity of trees to biotic attacks is compromised, and as their root systems shrivel when more energy is allocated to repairing the damage to foliage that absorbs air pollution, they are more vulnerable to drought.

    This is actually quite obvious and yet climate scientists have yet to factor in this critical loss of a major carbon sink into their models and predictions. It’s unfortunate, because ozone would dissipate rather quickly if we stopped emitting the precursors through burning fuel – but then perhaps that is why no one wants to admit it’s such a huge problem for plantlife. Fundamentally, industrial civilization would have to cease operations if we are to save the trees.

    Oh, and annual crops are significantly diminished in yield and quality, as well. Imagine what that is doing to the source of food for wild animals.

    It’s also quite important because, like ocean acidification, no geongineering scheme to block or reflect sunlight will solve these existential threats.

    There are many links to scientific research supporting this information in a book available as a free download (or in print from Amazon) if anyone is interested, here:

    http://www.deadtrees-dyingforests.com/pillage-plunder-pollute-llc/

  11. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    Thanks Lionel – the Lewandowsky’s survey will pass and this will be the next thing that they can wet themselves over, but it won’t go away.

  12. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    Well, I am not going to sit by and watch humanity destroy itself without a fight.
    I retired early, have nothing to fear and have nothing to lose!

  13. John McCormick says:

    Gail, thank you; another great comment. That link to David Spratt’s Code Red page is a topic the UN General Assembly should take up when it convenes later this month. Rome is burning.

  14. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    Thanks John, I think so too!

    Thanks to Tamino and Jim Pettitt’s Arctic Sea Ice Volume graph for inspiration.

    It just screamed out to me to display the volume data in a way more digestible and captivating to a general TV audience, so I got the data and started coding with the aim of creating something suitable.

    I really hope it finds its mark, for all of us.

  15. As long as we’re facing glum reality:

    Gail’s right: to have any chance of avoiding a catastrophic change in the weather, we’d have to ration fossil fuel. Now play that out in your imagination, as I have. It’s not simply the moneyed interests that are threatened. It is the birthright of every American. At least, that’s how it’ll be perceived. We are entitled to this fossil-fueled prosperity. Our ancestors fought and died for it. The USA gave humanity its greatest gifts–technology–on the back of fossil fuels.

    Forced, unilateral reductions in fossil fuel use will look exactly like treason to many, many people. It would be met with violent protest, at the very least, which could easily spiral out of control as those who think of America as God’s Chosen Country are inspired to take action in His name. Look at what happened in Libya today. This mentality is not the exclusive province of a reactionary Muslim minority. If you think we have a recession now, implement fuel rationing on a national scale. It’ll look like Weimar Germany inside of a year. And I draw that parallel very consciously.

    I’m sorry, but even this great video, which scares the pants off of we who understand its implications, just looks like a bunch of lines to the average person who lives thousands of miles south of the Arctic. We need someone the entire public trusts (the Joint Chiefs of Staff?) to bring the Republicans to their senses and then have a nationwide, televised fireside chat with the most reactionary Republican out there (candidates, anyone?) to say, folks, this is real, and we can’t let it happen. It’s a national emergency, and I’m teaming with President Obama to tell you the truth about the sacrifices we need to make, just as we did in WW2.

    Yeah, I know, that’s a fantasy. Who’s got something better? Otherwise, we’re going to watch the ice break up on CNN one summer soon, and then the weather is going to get very weird very suddenly, and those who resist the truth now are going to see it as a sign from God. Then who knows what they’ll do?

    It’s a very deep dilemma.

  16. Gail says:

    Well, all sorts of things were rationed during WWII and people were okay with it. There was a spirit of shared sacrifice that has been destroyed by advertising. People are obsessed with acquiring more stuff for themselves, and I think that is a planned result of the massive advertising in a consumer culture. Much of what is purportedly entertainment is actually advertising/brainwashing.

  17. John McCormick says:

    “Forced, unilateral reductions in fossil fuel use will look exactly like treason to many, many people”. In fact, US unilateral reduction of oil use frees up oil for the rest of the world at a lower per bbl price.

  18. Gail says:

    Who said rationing should be restricted to the US?

    Personally, I think everyone should be allotted the exact same (minimal) amount of energy, wherever they live. This would require an extreme reduction in the per capita use in the industrialized nations, which is only fair. We’ve been having a huge party for quite a while now, at the direct expense (by destroying the common air, water and soil as well as habitat destruction) of the poorer nations. It’s time for justice.

    We should also have a strict population plan. Groups based on kinship or other criteria should elect a member to reproduce, until our numbers go down to levels sustainable by localized economies.

    I know, haha.

  19. I would gladly submit to such a plan. The problem would be persuading millions of right-wingers and their leadership that it has to be done. Otherwise, it will strike them as confiscatory, a threat to individual liberty and national sovereignty, and therefore anti-American, if not treasonous. We have no control over other countries, and the suspicion would remain as it is now: that we would be naively surrendering our birthright to do what we want, how we want, when we want (to be “free”), and betting on the goodwill and after-the-fact cooperation of lifelong rivals who, after all, are only human, and we know what we’d do given that kind of opening.

    I agree with you, though, in the ideal. We need a national change of heart like we had for civil rights and women’s suffrage. We need to decide we’re just not going to do this anymore. I don’t know how that happens without a Rush Limbaugh or a James Inhofe doing an about-face and rallying the troops from the other side. I think there’s away to do that with direct, personal, one-on-one appeals from scientists and religious leaders (Katherine Hayhoe and her husband come to mind), but it will involve negotiators among the powerful far craftier and connected than I.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And a whole world to gain. Go for it, mate.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I have long believed advertising to be an incalculable evil, molesting and manipulating the psyches of even children, to inculcate deliberately unsatisfiable desires and longings in the ‘marks’. Its ends, to promote insatiability, endless, spiritually empty, consumption of crap, and to manipulate every negative emotion for political gain, are even viler than its means. And advertising people are such tawdry, self-obsessed, egotists, that it goes down as one of the most wretched symptoms of capitalist neoplasia’s endless cavalcade of horrors.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘From each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs’.

  23. Paul Graham says:

    Totally agree with you Jack. I think it will take a major climate event before anyone listens. I also think the Global Elite are not so pig headed that they don’t see what’s coming? I think they actually want it. Who will suffer most from climate change? The poor will be starved off the planet whilst the rich believe they can sit it out. In some ways they have a point. Human population growing out of control. Something has to give. The changes required to prevent this from happening are too enormous. No politician could ever sell them to the public, no Government or dictator could ever implement them without widespread public disorder. The “Great Unwashed” as we were once known, for the most part aren’t capable of grasping the need for change. They want cars and dishwashers and cheap flights to the sun. Not doom and gloom, growing your own veg and public transport. I think the outcome has already been decided. We are just witnessing the pre-game show now. The kick off will be much more interesting if not horrifying. Good luck to us all.

    ps. Does anyone know where to get extra long life tinned foods?? Think I might dig me a bunker!!!!!!

  24. “loo around you.”

    Yes. They do treat the world as a loo.