Arctic Death Spiral Bombshell: CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed

The sharp drop in Arctic sea ice area has been matched by a harder-to-see, but equally sharp, drop in sea ice thickness. The combined result has been a collapse in total sea ice volume — to one fifth of its level in 1980.

Arctic sea ice volume in 1000s of cubic kilometers (via Robinson)

Back in September, Climate Progress reported that the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe appeared to support the key conclusion of the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center: Arctic sea ice volume has been collapsing much faster than sea ice area (or extent) because the ice has been getting thinner and thinner.

Now the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s primary agency for funding and managing environmental sciences research, has made it official. In a Wednesday press release, they report:

Arctic sea ice volume has declined by 36 per cent in the autumn and 9 per cent in the winter between 2003 and 2012, a UK-led team of scientists has discovered….

The findings confirm the continuing decline in Arctic sea-ice volume simulated by the Pan-Arctic Ice-Ocean Modelling & Assimilation System (PIOMAS), which estimates the volume of Arctic sea ice and had been checked using earlier submarine, mooring, and satellite observations until 2008.

This should be the story of the day, week, month, year, and decade. As NERC notes, sea ice volume is “a much more accurate indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic.”

Many experts now say that if recent volume trends continue we will see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” within a decade. And that may well usher in a permanent change toward extreme, prolonged weather events “Such As Drought, Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves.

It will also accelerate global warming in the region, which in turn will likely accelerate both the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and the release of the vast amounts of carbon currently locked in the permafrost.

The findings were published online in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d). In a U. of Washington news release, polar scientist and coauthor Axel Schweiger said:

Other people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid.”

Creative tech guru and programming analyst Andy Lee Robinson has made a video of the PIOMAS data

Here is the rest of the NERC press release:

… Researchers used new data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite spanning 2010 to 2012, and data from NASA’s ICESat satellite from 2003 to 2008 to estimate the volume of sea ice in the Arctic.

They found that from 2003 to 2008, autumn volumes of ice averaged 11,900 km3. But from 2010 to 2012, the average volume had dropped to 7,600 km3 – a decline of 4,300 km3. The average ice volume in the winter from 2003 to 2008 was 16,300 km3, dropping to 14,800 km3 between 2010 and 2012 – a difference of 1,500 km3.

“The data reveals that thick sea ice has disappeared from a region to the north of Greenland, the Canadian Archipelago, and to the northeast of Svalbard,” says Dr Katharine Giles, a NERC-funded research fellow at the Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling (CPOM) at UCL (University College London), who co-authored the report, published online in Geophysical Research Letters….

Other satellites have already shown drops in the area covered by Arctic sea ice as the climate has warmed. Indeed, sea-ice extent reached a record minimum in September 2012. But CryoSat-2, launched in April 2010, differs in that it lets scientists estimate the volume of sea ice — a much more accurate indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic.

“While two years of CryoSat-2 data aren’t indicative of a long-term change, the lower ice thickness and volume in February and March 2012, compared with same period in 2011, may have contributed to the record minimum ice extent during the 2012 autumn,” says Professor Christian Haas of York University, Canada Research Chair for Arctic Sea Ice Geophysics, co-author of the study and coordinator of the international CryoSat sea ice validation activities.

CryoSat-2 measures ice volume using a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar altimeter, which fires pulses of microwave energy down towards the ice. The energy bounces off both the top of sections of ice and the water in the cracks in between. The difference in height between these two surfaces let scientists calculate the volume of the ice cover.

The findings are the result of a huge international collaboration between teams from UCL, the European Space Agency, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Washington, York University, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar & Marine Research, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland.

The team confirmed CryoSat-2 estimates of ice volume using measurements from three independent sources – aircraft, moorings, and NASA’s Operation IceBridge.

If you were wondering whether “death spiral” was the right visual metaphor for the collapse of Arctic ice, Robinson has a graphic for you:

It is almost certainly too late to save the Arctic’s summer sea ice from near-total destruction. Let’s hope the same isn’t true for the biosphere. The time to act is now if we don’t want to betray our children and future generations.

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124 Responses to Arctic Death Spiral Bombshell: CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed

  1. The Arctic ice cap is the idiot light at the top of the world.

    Save the ice cap.

  2. fj says:

    This is an extremely important and disturbing story reported repeatedly on this site yet both political public action has been appallingly minimal as this very dangerous emergency accelerates.

  3. M Tucker says:

    Maybe we could get the major polluting nations together for strategic CO2 limitation talks. Maybe we could get away from massive congregations of globe hopping bureaucrats that want to argue about much money the wealthy nations will give to the poor nations and concentrate on limiting emissions from the major polluters. I think it should have the same importance as limiting nuclear weapons. Just a thought.

  4. When the ice cap goes, the Arctic inverts from solar reflector to solar absorber. It’s not merely a different state, it’s the opposite state. A phase-change from ice to water will drive an analogous change in atmospheric circulation.

    The jet stream will be completely unhinged from the age-old patterns that agriculture relies on to deliver rainfall at the right times, amounts, and locations. From the point of view of agriculture, the atmosphere will experience total systemic failure.

  5. Ken Barrows says:

    Maybe this song is apropos. Enjoy, it’s Paul Simon!

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Too late. The task now must be to restore the ice-cap. Now, tell me-do you see the intellectual and moral leadership up to this task anywhere within our political and business elites?

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The MSM, true to form, will ignore it, hoping that it goes away. The denialist cretinosphere will, of course, deny it all. Just going through the motions, as the gastroenterologist said.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Famine, starvation, social collapse, mass forced migration, war-game over. How do you stop this sequence now, particularly as the Right will fight us every inch of the way?

  9. Bruce S says:

    Greenland will be the frozen north for quite a while still. Summer and fall low pressure systems may tend to circle the new high pressure area that stabilizes over Greenland rather than high pressure systems which formerly would move out over Arctic Ocean sea ice then back to Greenland. A stabilized high may tend to slam England with lots of summer – fall storms. We will see very soon the new order of things.

  10. Jack Burton says:

    This should not be news. I would think even the meanest intelligence could have seen that as surface area shrunk, the thickness and thus overall volume HAD to be shrinking even faster. Or else, HOW would surface area decrease? Sometimes science seems unable to see the obvious that a 7th grade kid in science class could figure out.
    Anyways, as was said above. This is a phase shift from one state, reflecting sunlight and heat back to space, to another state, a giant ocean area sucking up sunlight and producing heat. This is not a MINOR change, this is an epic shift from one state to another. Where does the jet stream and weather patterns go when the high arctic is a giant heat sponge. Water will warm very quickly in summer, this will raise temperature across the bordering tundra areas. So the feedback accelerates to OVERDRIVE. Siberia, Canada and Alaska begin to melt their permafrost, and out comes the fossil carbon and methane. Every bit of heat that ocean soaks up will force permafrost to give up more heat trapping gases.
    We have seen this happen at lightning speed. More than 50 years ahead of science’s most dire predictions. You would think climate scientists would be shell shocked by how WRONG that have gotten it.
    Meanwhile, the corporate media has dropped this story into the Orwellian incinerator to be expunged from the record. Why? Because corporate media is a slave to the corporate profit centers of Oil, Gas, Coal and the refiners.
    As this news hits us, remember that Canada is working as fast as they can to turn half a province into one giant tar sands mine and the premier of Canada vows that this will be just the beginning. Canadian prosperity is to be built on Tar turned into thick high carbon oil that requires the use of unlimited fresh water that is returned to the earth as oil and chemical polluted filth.
    And still some idiots keep saying we can turn this all around tomorrow IF we reduce our CO2 emissions. What planet do this hopeful folks inhabit? Are they blind to what every nation is doing? Nobody is limiting CO2, they are working as hard as possible to increase fossil fuel extraction and burning.

  11. Kimberly King says:

    ‘Happy’ Valentine’s Day. The positive feedback loop is in full-effect, not sure if there’s time for a negative forcing feedback. Best to… Prepare. Respond. Adapt.

  12. JackmanTex says:

    hmmmm but wait – the “expert” sceptics over at WUWT say the ice is recovering, in fact a certain “expert” sceptic that shall remains nameless **cough** Anthony Watts **cough** has been telling us that PIOMAS is just a model after all, and that the sun is in a funk and that we should all be buying jackets for the upcoming freezing conditions! Are you now telling me that I bought that expensive Canada Goose jacket for nothing !!!

  13. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    No. We have the choice of do nothing, or do way too little. Even many of the scientists seem to favour the science of least drama.

    There is no analogue for how fast we have changed atmospheric forcing. Malikovich cycles are by nature so very gentle yet enough to throw us in and out of glacial cycles. What we have done is not at all gentle.

    All that remains is for nature to deliver the Kool-Aid.

  14. Oakden Wolf says:

    “This should be the story of the day, week, month, year, and decade. As NERC notes, sea ice volume is “a much more accurate indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic.”

    I simply agree. We need some drums to be banged.

  15. I doubt we can, Mulga. Whatever might have a prayer of interrupting the positive feedback loop would do exactly as you say–provoke the Right a la 1930s Germany. Implementing the effective measures would be the “tyranny” they fear. This is my nightmare, which I’ve visualized in great detail.

  16. Dickensian American says:

    In that spiral diagram, the decoupling of melt and growth volumes over the last 35 years is quite striking. Particularly looking at the formerly paired Jun/Feb and Jul/Dec numbers.

    I don’t know how anyone with an inkling of training in mathematics could look at that diagram and not see imminent collapse of summer sea ice.

  17. DanB says:

    The Guardian has a great expose on the huge money spent on denial and skepticism.

    Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

    Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science

    My understanding is that in order to change minds that are hardened by endlessly repeated disinformation you must shock the limbic brain or the brain stem, the “survival” part of our mind. And then you must propose a simple, concrete, safe alternative.

    A Climate Clock ticking towards midnight and another showing how many people are dying because of climate change – or a projection of a decade from now, a “future-cast” in a major media location: New York / DC is about it these days.

    Add some shiny futuristic images of exciting green cities and some dull but reassuring reports of what’s already working. Imagery is key to making this “concrete”. If you wonder why I say this read Luntz (and other less repulsive media shapers – Chip Heath, etc.)

  18. Sasparilla says:

    Seems like we’ll get a front row seat….as for realistic hope to slow or stop this…grasping at unlikely straws, Iceland has several good size volcanoes overdue to erupt and piled high with massive quantities of ice & snow on them that is melting…there’s just no knowing when those will go (way too late probably) and temporarily cool things down for a year or two.

  19. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent article Joe, the graphs really lay things out in hideous detail.

    I remember hearing from Holdren (before being with the administration) that once you loose the summer ice cap the winter one will follow much quicker than one would expect. Sometimes reality really sucks.

  20. Sasparilla says:

    Totally agreed, it’s been game over for a while now…

  21. Jeff Poole says:


    Northern Hemisphere agriculture as it’s been practised since the days of the ‘Fertile Crescent’ now has a time limit.

    If the predictions are anywhere near correct we can expect complete seasonal disruption in the North before 2020.

    Not that it’ll be smooth sailing until then, 2010 onwards is all the proof you need for that.

    There is no solution.

    All that can be done now is to start planting food gardens as a form of insurance against the early effects – say up to around 2025 – when the prima-donna industrial crops fail completely.

    Plantings of food producing annuals and assiduously seedsaving from the best of each year is the fastest way to modify crops.

    It will help for a few years.
    That’s all.

    Apparently it will take a decade or so longer for the worst effects of this utter climate disruption to reach the Southern Hemisphere – due to our much thicker, colder land-based ice cap.

    But of course the gun-toting refugees from the industrialised North will be here before that and will destroy our low-productivity fossil soils in less than a decade as they desperately attempt to feed themselves.

    I’m really glad I don’t have kids.

  22. Niall says:

    I’m one of the people to whom that last paragraph refers.

    I live on a planet where atmospheric CO2 levels are around 15% above their highest possible safe boundary. I live on a planet where the ice caps are melting, which will have adverse consequences for weather, ecosystems and agriculture. I live on a planet where both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are already under strain to the point of cracking.

    Why, what planet do you live on?

  23. atcook27 says:

    No, they will keep throwing too little too late economic solutions at a gigantic environmental problem. It’s a bit like asking a carpenter to paint your house and all he has in his tool box is a hammer. Now thats a bad day!

  24. atcook27 says:

    I firmly believe that the rate at which a system which has been perturbed moves to re-establish equalibrium is directly proportional to the extent to which it has been perturbed. The rate the arctic ice is shifting is truly mind boggling – head for the hills!

  25. atcook27 says:

    The MSM must have a list of stories that the’re not allowed to touch. You know things like aliens, the fact that god doesn’t actually bless America and now the world as we know it will end very soon due to greed and gross mismanagement.

  26. fj says:

    It will likely cost trillions of dollars to restore the Arctic once we figure out how to do and it will have to come after we get our emissions under control again once we figure out how to do it which will likely save us trillions of dollars in s very short tme.

  27. Will Fox says:

    It is just absolutely astonishing that anyone in their right mind could deny the warming trend. The evidence is overwhelming, and becomes clearer every year. The deniers don’t have a leg to stand on.

  28. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    In my nightmarish vision, the US, EU, and China undertake a project aimed toward restoration of the Arctic ice cap. This involves the injection of an ashen substance high into the stratosphere, heavily biased toward the northern hemisphere. The project is undertaken at a disadvantage without a prototype to test the scheme on, and turns out badly.

  29. thomas says:

    For all we hear about rhetoric and messaging on this blog, please write a better headline for this story. It’s too important to have “CryoSat-2” in it – an obscure technical term that will no doubt cause many of the people we are desperately trying to reach to glaze over. If we hope to have regular media outlets cover this story, at least write a headline they can re-use.

  30. John McCormick says:

    Just a thought! It should be the President’s initiative. We started to race to hell.

  31. fj says:

    Relax. The political capital and momentum seems quite strong and poised to move forward: When all else fails reason prevails.

    And, some badly chosen words wont stop this thing as lots of well chosen words did not start serious action in the past. The dire reality is just starting to sink in with the vast majority of people.

  32. John McCormick says:

    Bruce, Western Europe and Russia have no time to prepare their infrastructures and agriculture in time to deal with the climate scenario you painted.

    I see Austalia’s agriculture collapsing and fast as the El Nino is stuck in the La Nina grip.

    Europe is next.

    And, we (those of us old enough to have once thought we’d miss the bullet) will all take it in time.

  33. John McCormick says:

    The volume of melt loss since 1979-2012, in simplest terms is 4.5 billion gallons of melted ice comparing the change since 79. Of course, each seasonal melt contributes its own amount of fresh water to the North Atlantic.

    Dr. Wally Broecker at Columbia’s Earth Institute warned us about thermohaline circulation slowdown disrupting the earth’s climates forever.

    Measurements of warm tropic Atlantic waters flowing north have been observed to be slowing down. That dynamic will shut down Western Europe into a deep freeze in winter and longer.

    The melt water and its impact on the thermohaline circulation deserves serious discussion.

  34. John McCormick says:

    Comparing the volume of melt water 1979 versus2012, in simplest terms is 4.5 billion gallons of melted ice comparing the change since 79. Of course, each seasonal melt contributes its own amount of fresh water to the North Atlantic.

    Dr. Wally Broecker at Columbia’s Earth Institute warned us about thermohaline circulation slowdown disrupting the earth’s climates forever.

    Measurements of warm tropic Atlantic waters flowing north have been observed to be slowing down. That dynamic will shut down Western Europe into a deep freeze in winter and longer.

    The melt water and its impact on the thermohaline circulation deserves serious discussion.

  35. I can easily see some desperate geoengineering scheme. Of course it will backfire. It’ll happen a few years after the far-right religious zealots capitalize on the extreme fear, profound regret, and despair to engineer control of the government, like Hitler and the Nazis did.

    Imagine the state of mind when the ice cap actually goes, and agriculture collapses, followed by the economy. It will look like the end times. And it might be. Blame and desperation will be thick, ready for the stirring.

  36. thomas says:

    I hope you are right. However, your point is basically that messaging doesn’t matter. That’s a valid opinion, but it’s the opposite of what’s pressed on this blog, where we are hammered again and again with how important so-called language intelligence is. That’s why I made the comment above. This headline reads like we consulted an all-knowing robot named CryoSat-2, and this robot told us the arctic is in trouble.

  37. fj says:

    Oh, messaging does matter but substance more, and it has been such a formidable battle getting meaningful action on climate change people try all sorts of things to break the impasse . . . and clear thinking is a most valuable asset as has been this site as one of the most important forums on climate change.

  38. Paul Klinkman says:

    Now we need a forecast.

    In the short term, the ice will probably be gone in September of 2017, maybe 2016. Santa needs to relocate to Baffin Island. In the longer run, the Arctic keeps right on heating beyond that with earlier and earlier ice-free dates, so that the Arctic ocean collects more and more heat, building up its long-range heat supply with a 30 year time lag. So it’s not so much where we are now as where we’re going and in what.

  39. Jack Burton says:

    I live on this planet where those who are hopeful are seriously deluded. My problem is that every article and study that reveal just how bad the global warming is, seems always to end with “this is really not such a big problem, all we need do is start to limit fossil fuel burning”. That is correct, but there is no real effort or plans to begin an effort to reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, all evidence points to no limits to fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions, on the contrary, despite all the dreadful evidence science keeps presenting to the world, the world is hell bent on more fossil fuel discoveries and extractions and burnings.
    The absolute madness of the Canadian Tar Sands projects shows as clear as day that we are going to experience absolute worst case warming.
    I wonder what planet the hopeful “we just need to reduce emissions” people inhabit. Do they know that fossil fuel extraction is going into overdrive? I bet than even a decade from now we will be experiencing such climate shifts and extreme weather that everybody will know we have already ruined our home planet. Science has led most to believe that 2100 is the point where the real trouble begins. But clearly 2100 is when whoever is left is trying to pick up the pieces of a ruined world.

  40. wili says:

    You are probably right about ’16 or ’17.

    But even this year may see an essentially ice-free Arctic Ocean (defined as under one million square kilometers of sea-ice extent over at Neven’s sea ice blog).

    The veteran ice watchers are saying that there is a lattice-work of ‘leads’–small, and sometimes large, cracks–all across the sea ice this year, unprecedented in its vast extent.

    This indicates very thin weak ice nearly everywhere that will melt quickly, and the leads themselves will a be locations from which melt will start quickly once sunlight starts hitting that open water and warming it.

    Note that we will likely not see an absolutely ice-free Arctic Ocean for some time because calving from the north shore of the Greenland Ice Sheet and from glaciers on the Canadian Archipelago will continue to dump large chunks of ice into the sea for many years.

  41. Ten years. I think that is right. I regret to say it. I can only hope we somehow come to our senses very quickly. This weekend’s climate rally is a start, possibly. I hope it’s not a bust, and that the MSM covers it.

    It may take civil disobedience, just like civil rights did.

    The big difference: we can get incensed by images of people being fire hosed or beaten, and rally to their cause. But we are all implicated by fossil fuel use. It’s not lost on me that I’m going to the rally in a vehicle propelled by diesel.

    But we can do things, if we’re willing to make a sacrifice–a long, hard one, like WW2 with a factor (if not an exponent). The key issue is visualization: getting people to understand that losing the ice cap is very likely to be catastrophic.

    But the weather is so nice today here in California. How can anything be wrong?

    The roof is solid beneath my feet as I walk to the edge. How can anything be wrong?

  42. Jim Baird says:

    The implications of this loss are the demise of phytoplankton, the canary in today’s coalmine, due to density stratification at the poles and thermal stratification in the tropcis.

  43. Have you ever seen ice-out on a lake? The ice thins from the bottom up then, over the span of a few days, breaks up and disappears. I don’t see why several hundred thousand square miles of Arctic ice, once it’s thin enough, should be any different.

    A few years ago, I pegged the event at 2018 as the premise for my novel. Looks like I might have been pretty close. I’m not happy about that. In fact, I would love to be proven completely wrong. But I agree 2016, 2017, 2018–sometime so soon it will be an immense shock to the global weather system, and to humanity. Forget 2100. We’ll be in very, very deep and irreversible trouble long before that, as someone above noted.

    Unless we miraculously decide to avoid it.

  44. john c. wilson says:

    No way do we have so much as a decade. It is possible now for the last remaining ice to melt out this season. That is not my prediction. That is simply to say that there is so little ice left that ordinary events that have occurred before would be enough to do the job. It requires a lot of special pleading and deus ex machina to make ice-out recede past 2016.

    When the ice is gone the Arctic will heat very rapidly. When the ice is gone weather systems we have have known will disappear promptly.

  45. john c. wilson says:

    Please read the NERC press release closely. The field markers that create the 36% headline figure are misleading in the extreme. This is a textbook example of bad communication. It is much worse than 36%.

    The other takeout from this report is the PIOMAS numbers we have been watching for some time are well-validated. PIOMAS does have a modelling aspect but the method and the numbers are and have been reliable.

  46. John McCormick says:

    All honest climate scientists now have to say loud and publicly, “by he end of the century there won’t have too many people left to tell us we were wrong about projecting out to 2100”.

  47. Niall says:

    Jack, I think we’re actually on a similar page here. You appear to be looking at the problem from the perspective of the current political and economic realities, and I accept they are realities.

    I’m looking at the problem from the perspective of action. This means we need to stop (not cut, stop) greenhouse has emissions and cram as much of the genie back into the bottle as possible as a matter of extreme urgency. That won’t prevent disaster, but it may stop a bad disaster becoming a worse one.

    The problem is that such a requirement is not consistent with what is going on, as you correctly observe, in terms of continued GHG pollution.

    I don’t see much point in the two of us arguing when the real enemy lies elsewhere – the pollutocrats.

  48. David Goldstein says:

    That is EXACTLY what is likely to happen. It might be fun to start a betting pool for what year it occurs: I am going with, hmmmmm…….2023

  49. David Goldstein says:

    The other eveningI went to a documentary on a couple who resists paying ‘war taxes’. Totally unrelated to climate change, of course, But there were some real veteran activists there whose interests covered the spectrum. The woman hosting, in particular, fit this description. After the film I asked her (not mentioning climate at all- more to get her response to the content of the film): “Do you have more hope or less hope than 25 years ago”. She paused and then said: “Well, I feel deeply that the Earth as we know it is dying.” The emotional impact of her quiet and humble statement was stunning.

  50. Klaus Wehrlin says:

    What really worries me is what is described on
    Ice stabilizes our temperature quite nicely, add the same energy it takes to melt that ice and have a look to what temperature we getting …

  51. eugene says:

    Personally, I stepped across the “this is a done deal” some time ago. Saying that, it is still a gut wrencher to say “it’s here”. I did not anticipate the speed it would all come. I struggle to keep my mouth shut as nobody wants to hear anything. I guess living in a comatose state has it’s uses for the vast majority.

  52. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I’ll go with 2020, as I suspect they’ll want to the project while there’s a wee bit of remaining Arctic ice for use as a seed.
    BTW, this isn’t my idea… See, for instance, John Holdren, circa 2009 before he was apparently told to curb his public discussions on geo-engineering.

  53. Paul Magnus says:

    So were on for Sep 2015 as the best date now…

    AMEG, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, hereby formally complains to the UK government that the observations to which they refer in their statement [1] do not exist. The observations taken directly from the ice and recently from satellite, support a very simple model of sea ice behaviour – that the melting, as reflected by the volume average for particular months, is closely following an exponential trend, towards zero for September 2015.

  54. Paul Magnus says:

    Did any one also notice that the sky was falling yesterday….

  55. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Oh goodie, 10 more years! But not as much fun as the last few pages of ‘On the Beach’, ME

  56. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It did in Russia, ME

  57. Paul Klinkman says:

    Well, if the destruction of millions of species really bothers you, the first thing you can do is find a mutual fund that doesn’t invest in fossil fuel companies. Where is your money tonight?

    Second, you can try to remove your home from the fossil fuel industry. Insulation helps. Passive solar isn’t that hard and it covers the first 20% of the remaining fossil heat. Passive solar with thermal storage (concrete, water barrels) takes out another 20%. I’m physically working on a rock bed storage prototype that could cheaply take out maybe 80% of fossil, retrofitting existing buildings.

    Oh, and you could work your entire career as if these things mattered.

    Then there’s political protest and working for candidates. Somebody out there is going to spend 6 months in Oklahoma and try to singlehandedly de-elect Senator Jim $inhofe in 2014. 100 such people would actually do the job.

  58. Paul Klinkman says:

    In Maine they dragged junk cars out onto the ice and held a raffle to see who could pick the day, hour and minute when the car fell through the ice. Somebody is going to try the gruesome Arctic ice pack raffle, if only to show the world how predictable climate change has become. The Koch brothers are free to place a buck on the “never” option.

  59. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s a little less brisk than after a meteor or comet impact, but quite a deal faster than massive vulcanism like the Siberian and Deccan outflowings. It’s really the worst of all possible worlds, as we are also massively toxifying the planet with our polluting excrescences, irradiating it with long-lasting nuclear pollution and destroying the habitats of all higher animals. The relentless death impulse. driven by greed and money hunger, spares nothing. No environment is so pristine, so irreplaceable, that the political ghouls will not consign it to desecration and destruction if some money can be extracted from it by mining it, cutting its trees down or damming its rivers. The lust for money, to turn everything living into dead stuff piled up in bank accounts, is quite simply the ultimate moral and spiritual disease. Those who suffer from it would be kept well away from power in any sane society, but, in ours, that deranged type controls everything, and they have projected their insatiable greed, lust for destruction, and total indifference to others, on to society as a whole. This society cannot survive, cannot be reformed and will not be extant in fifty years. The only question is ‘Will it take us all with it?’.

  60. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    We’ve only been warned for at least twenty years, in my recollection (it could be longer) about the ‘methane time-bomb’. I still think that this catastrophe is being allowed to occur. The obstinate lack of response goes way beyond mere idiocy and simple ignorance.

  61. I think that’s why many of us are here, or have started our own blogs. Nobody wants to hear this, not the least of which are our loved ones. Hell, I don’t even want to say these things, really. All it does is make them supremely anxious.

    But this and other blogs may filter out into the general consciousness. I have not completely given up, although when I read about the ice cap, I do fight despair. I’ve done what I can to help people understand the implications.

    Who knows, maybe this is just cheap therapy.

  62. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Jack – I’m not one of the idiots who keep saying “we can turn this all around tomorrow IF we reduce our CO2 emissions.” Nor do I pay much attention to hope – whose roller-coaster dynamics make a lousy basis for the morale effective campaigning demands.

    Yet I differ with both your defeatism and the flawed rationale you propose for it. For a number of years I’ve posted here and elsewhere that multiple factors of systemic decay are combining to pose a very early existential threat, (far more, and more pervasive than you outline above). Emissions Control alone is not remotely sufficient for the task of mitigation – both Carbon Recovery and Albedo Restoration are now essential in addition to have a chance of redeeming the planet. Some would rather despair than face this reality, while others quietly accept it but do nothing much to discuss this seminal advance of the necessary mitigation strategy.

    One area where you are dead wrong in my view is in saying that “Nobody is limiting CO2” – While under Obama’s ‘leadership’ the US is debating whether to honour its ‘pledge’ of cutting CO2 by 2020 by 3.67% off the formally agreed 1990 baseline
    (hyped as 17% off the unilateral GWB/BHO 2005 baseline)
    here in Europe we’re cutting CO2 by 20% off 1990 by 2020, and are debating raising the goal to 30% by 2020. Quite a number of countries outside the EU are also starting to control GHG outputs – far slower than what is required, but they’re starting. Given the nations’ priority of not crashing industries’ global competitiveness while the superpowers do nothing, it’s a surprise that this much has been achieved.

    The second point where your rationale lacks rigour is in swallowing whole the received wisdom that the US fossil lobby is the source of America’s ruinous obstructionism on the world stage. This is simply incoherent. Obama crashed the Copenhagen talks with a ‘uck-off-&-die’ ‘deal’ (demanding that in 2050 each American should still have about four times the emissions rights of each Chinese) without any notable input, or coercion, from the fossil lobby.

    As to that lobby’s power within the US, since it generates only about $1.1T of a $15T US GDP, we need to ask just why the huge non-fossil corporations
    – whose future wealth is right in the firing line of climate destabilization, and most of whom have no inherent loyalty to fossil fuels,
    don’t provide the chickenfeed counter-funding to swamp the fossil lobby’s fabricated circus of denial ? On any issue posing a tenth of the threat they’d normally be vitriolic – and yet they say nothing.

    Moreover, if the inaction was actually about fossil fuels, we should see the same corporate conduct in Europe – when in fact our fossil lobby doesn’t fund denialism, and our non-fossil corporations are getting very vocal (e.g. Munich Re, PWC, etc).

    I suggest that the primary difference is that US corporations have the paramount priority (which the White House has served since WW2) of maintaining US global economic dominance for their profits, while European corporations do not.

    China’s economic rise is the immediate threat to that dominance that generates obdurate US inaction on climate at home and abroad, with the goal of seeing climatic destabilization, crop failure and civil strife impose a regime change in Beijing.

    Not only did Cheyney (who launched the ‘brinkmanship of inaction’) but also Obama (who now advances it) both fail to put up any other countermeasure to China’s rise to dominance (and compare that with US efforts versus the USSR from ’46 to ’87)
    but the policy in now actually within sight of fruition – see: “Food Security: Near future projections of the impact of drought in Asia” (in ‘reports’ at ). In brief this study found that India, China, Pakistan & Turkey are facing probable extreme drought and crop failures starting within a decade or so.

    There is also the valid point that if US obstructionism was only accidentally crushing the food security of an upstart rival empire, then it would probably be the first empire in history to be doing so by accident.

    There is much to discuss around the policy’s incompetence in its flawed founding assumptions of relative US advantage under AGW, around its intended exit strategy, and of course around its vulnerability to exposure, protest and replacement (all of which I’d be glad to discuss if anyone’s interested).

    But in response to the ~749th confirmation of very rapid cryosphere decline, and to the expressions of fury and despair and bewilderment at official inaction, I’d point out that this is what a brinkmanship of inaction on climate looks like – because it is a Sino-US contest to see who can ignore global warming the longest . . .

    With respect to all concerned, in light of the above factors it seems to me simply naive to assume that the US fossil lobby is the core of the problem, and, given that our campaigning effectiveness rests totally on the accuracy of analysis of the problem, it is critically important for the chance of mitigation that people start to look beyond the received wisdom – and to recognize that this global problem of inaction has a dynamic much broader than just one sector of one nation’s corporations.

    Unlike pressure on the Rhino-hide fossil lobby, cogent pressure where it’s needed on the WH and the legislatures will have an effect. The rational targetting of that pressure would in my view be the start of effective campaigning in the US.



  63. fj says:

    Actually, I like the name CryoSat-2; and the idea of an all-knowing robot is not bad either . . .

    And, you have to admit that all the machines, mathematics and computers used to produce the analysis do have a machine-like quality

    It’s truly amazing story how we’ve come to produce and rely on data and our machine modeling of our world works so well.

    Ref: “The Information”, James Gleick

  64. Gonzo says:

    Greed isn’t a lust for money, it’s a lust for the power that money represents. In non-monetary systems, the power is directly held by a few powerful individuals. There is inherently no difference from the politician who sacrifices morality for higher office, the businessman who tears down the public for his profit, or the individual who feels his own personal concerns should be held above all others.

    The reason global climate change has been received so poorly is not because of the radical changes required, but the lust for power tied to those “championing” it. While the lack of political support makes Al Gore seem like a hero, his political aspirations and profit aspirations have made him a living strawman for those who don’t believe in the conclusions drawn from the evidence.

    The “less drama” approach has historically always been the one to succeed, but it has been slowed to a standstill by those who are too impatient for gratification that they lose sight of the goal. Had the vehicle not been a politically polarizing stance by a politician who has shown no true buy-in to what he claims to champion, we would have seen meaningful change begin 10 years ago.

    The fact that our current President has spent his political capital on healthcare, the drone war, and gun control under the banner of saving American lives, rather than saving everyone from extinction shows that neither party actually takes it to be more than a short term gimmick.

    It’s time to take the insults, political loyalties, and everything else that divides us and set it aside. Not going extinct should be worth the political sacrifice of dropping everything else until this is solved.

  65. Bad weather? says:

    You might really want to take a look at the enormous methane plumes that are erupting out of the melting Arctic ice cap and especially the tundra.

    Hey, CO2 is a joke compared to the heat capturing utility of methane.

    So, a couple of Russians found solid frozen methane plumes that are over 1 kilometer in diameter over a year ago.

  66. Gonzo says:

    The Right are more intelligent than you give them credit for. The “Party of the Right” has adopted a strategy of heel-digging, but that can be broken with the right leverage. A bill that accomplished exactly what environmentalists want from the US with no “tax credit” loopholes or other compromises could get through this year if it was tied to an abandonment of all gun control laws and tax cuts for the rich paired with massive spending cuts. It would be a few decades of setback for two issues in exchange for, you know, not going extinct.

  67. Jeff Poole says:

    Pass the pills!

  68. Max1 says:

    You thought telling a child there is no Santa Clause…
    … Try telling them there is no North Pole left.

  69. s katz says:

    There’s no ‘saving’ the Arctic Ice. It’s already gone. We’re just awaiting for when it happens. There’s nothing we can do to reverse this trend. We might have been able to stop it in the 80s or 90s with radical changes to how we use carbon based fuels, mass burning of forests, and other mitigating factors.

    The climate changes that we’re just starting to notice as ‘inconveniences’ will seriously impact many billions of people in poorest countries first, and also those closest to the poles. More wildfires, stronger storms, disrupted WX patterns will drain national budgets and put people at each other’s throats to survive.

    Not going to be pretty, and it’s questionable that humans will be able to survive the added stress on nations armed with nuclear weapons as situations become desperate with each passing decade.

    And so it goes.

  70. But there won’t be any water to drink in the hills — the glaciers are melting.

  71. “Just going through the motions, as the gastroenterologist said.”

    Marvelous! Mulga, you really should publish your collected witticisms some day.

  72. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Or Fortress of Solitude.

  73. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sorry fj but it doesn’t work that well as the gap between the date of predictions and reality is widening. No amount of smart technology can compensate for an inadequate conceptual foundation, ME

  74. Mike Roddy says:

    Aliens and demonic forces out to get America are well covered in the tabloids, seen in every grocery check out counter. Nobody is really covering climate change, least of all our corporate broadcast media.

  75. Mike Roddy says:

    Maybe you’re right, Change, but fighting them now seems more satisfying and possibly more productive than quietly starving or, worse, being dealt with by drones.

  76. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Change – in out circs using fossil fuel to advance the demand for action is entirely necessary and is massively justified by the predicament. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if you arrive by Humvee – getting there and protesting effectively is what counts.



  77. There is no adaption without mitigation, because the conditions you attempt to adapt to will change continuously — in unpredictable ways and at an accelerating pace. No matter what else we do, we must cut carbon emissions drastically and quickly to try to minimize the damage.

    Think of it as sliding into a pileup of cars, knowing that it’s too late to avoid hitting the car in front of you. You still hit the brakes as hard as you can to minimize the damage.

  78. They don’t need a leg to stand on. They are promulgating the BIG LIE — and the bought and sold mainstream media is helping them with its BIG SILENCE.

  79. I already did. I write an environmental column for three print newspapers. In my pre-Christmas column I wrote a letter from Santa to the world’s children explaining that their gifts would be late because Santa’s workshop sunk and had to be replaced with a giant raft. Also, delivery would be slow, because it would be by boat, pulled by dolphins — reindeer need to live on the ice, not in open water.

  80. Bruce S says:

    John, excuse me if off topic. I bought a hydrographic relief globe a few years ago to better visualize ocean currents. I have google earth like everyone else but there is no replacing holding the globe .3-d. Arctic deep water is Atlantic in origin. Greenland will continue to calf ice so we will not totally lose all ice and refreeze will still drive overturning but at some point when will the overturning weaken? Where will warm salty gulf stream waters go if they don’t sink as they mix with the formerly frigid waters near Iceland? So in addition to questions regarding duration of ice-free( mostly) fall season and terrestrial effects I wonder about the currents.

  81. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    John, the missing ice, 13594km³ is actually 3,591,534,800,000,000 US gallons.
    That’s 3.6 million billion gallons, 110% of the volume of Lake Superior.

    Total amount of oil extracted since 1850 is around 84km³, a lot less but enough to kick the thermostat out of the box.

  82. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Bruce, please allow me to recommend a book, “Under a Green Sky” by Peter Ward. You’ll find good coverage of ocean currents in Ward’s book, with emphasis on changes in the overturning of the Gulf-stream. I found his description of the Canfield Ocean to be perfectly lovely. It was a page turner for me – high praise for a jet-setting geologist describing his rock hammering exploits.

  83. schwankmoe says:

    we’re like a person who has been diagnosed with emphysema. quitting smoking isn’t going to fix it, and really there’s no way to ‘fix’ it. but if you quit smoking and make necessary (if difficult) changes in lifestyle you can at least live a bit longer with a higher quality of life.

    i’m not saying society is going to end, but society as we know it will.

  84. Some self-reflection among us is in order. The human impulse to ascribe our inaction to the fossil lobby is the same impulse that the ultra-rightists will access to blame innocent people for the coming catastrophe, if it happens.

    That impulse is for simplicity and blame. If we can find someone to blame, and eliminate them, the problem goes away. It is black-magical thinking. It accesses the deepest, most primal neural pathways in our amygdala.

    Conspiracies at that scale are simply not sustainable. Too many people with too many unaligned motives. This problem is deeply structural, and we are all implicated. This is not to say that fossil interests are not part of the problem; clearly they’re a big part.

  85. Berbalang says:

    It depends on the conspiracy. Destruction is easy and can be carried out by a very small group of people. The goal of the professional deniers is to maximize the amount of death and destruction. This would free up large areas of the Earth for drilling and mining since those areas would now be lifeles.
    This should not be a surprise since many of these deniers are the same people who gloated over the number of people who would die do to their denying the link between cigarettes and cancer.

  86. Lou Grinzo says:

    No, we couldn’t have saved the Arctic ice in the 80’s or 90’s, as there still would have been far too much warming in the pipeline, as people say, by then. If our worldwide emissions literally went to zero tomorrow morning, the environment would continue to warm for another 30 or 40 years.

    The hideously long atmospheric lifetime of CO2 is the ultimate “inconvenient truth” because of the way it locks in consequences for such a horribly long time.

  87. Wes says:

    I saw that in a video of Dr Jennifer Francis discussing arctic ice, she dropped this stat: when the arctic starts cooling in the fall the ocean releases the energy that it’s been absorbing during the summer. Thanks to disappearing ice, the amount of heat energy released is enough to supply the energy needs of the entire USA for 25 years. And it goes into the atmosphere, of course.
    Anyone who doesn’t recognize that we’re on a slippery slope toward extinction isn’t paying attention.

  88. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I agree with Change, that there is a real danger that far Right religious zealots, who openly desire a climate Apocalypse (just as they desire Israel to attack Iran)in order to set the scene for Jesus to return in his Second Coming, will work zealously to derail action. At the moment the religious loonies look to have peaked, but given the continuing collapse of social mobility in the US, the effects of austerity on the already pitiful levels of social welfare, massive indebtedness etc, you would only need to add continuing and ever more frequent weather and climate disasters to set the forces of reaction, obscurantism and religious fundamentalism loose. Add to this ‘bitches brew’ the absence of any ideological alternative, as acceptable political opinion has been reduced to a narrow spectrum on the Right, and prospects are murky, to say the least.

  89. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That comment alone is probably sufficient to get you onto ‘The List’, Mike-if you were not already on it.

  90. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I hate to play Cassandra (let alone Laocoon )but I’d knock back such a ‘Trojan’ offer, if I was you.

  91. fj says:

    Merrelyn, This was meant in the most general sense in the way civilization has evolved.

    Yes, as we know, climate change modeling has not been keeping up with observations since the complexity of feedbacks and interacting phenomena have yet to be characterized; though it still seems impressive and there have been major successes.

    It was interesting to learn a few years back that underwater convection systems were still not understood below 500 feet.

  92. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Can you imagine the ‘workings’ of a ‘mind’ like Watts’? You’d need a Shakespeare, Dostoevsky or Kafka to recreate it.

  93. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Legs are redundant when your habitual mode of locomotion is slithering.

  94. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The plankton who need to lay down calcium carbonate shells are doomed by ocean acidification, which is worse in cold waters, as well. Plankton collapse destroys food chains, and removes both a great carbon sink, but also the source of much of the planet’s oxygen. We are so very, very, stuffed, on so many levels, yet we go on insouciantly as if nothing is awry. Sheer madness! Homo sapiens-what a joke!

  95. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Better ‘supremely anxious’ than supremely complacent. From the anxiety might come some realisation, without which we are truly doomed.

  96. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    To paraphrase Chico Marx ‘ You canna fool me- their ain’t no Sanity Clause’. It seems curiously appropriate, when the elite are so plainly morally insane.

  97. EDpeak says:

    Mostly agreed…but the issue is not that ultra greedy have taken over power….face it: if by magic wand you had ultra-technology to Star Trek teleport all “bad leaders” to another galaxy, it would change nothing’s not the problem, “Bad people coming into power”, rather, a politico-economic system based on greed (short term profit maximization and one dollar equals one vote) is the reason why leaders can (at best) make mild steps forward (and at worst, make things much worse) and why the system turns an elected good person into a wornout/soldout (and turns a bad person into worst impulses). The system must change.

    Second, why the psychotic greed? human nature you say? But that’s always been a part of human nature, so this doesn’t explain the massive amplification of this greed trend in recent decades. No it is again institutional – our pathological economic system again, but also the cultural effects – yes humans always had greed, but a culture with solidarity, empathy, cooperation, and other things, can partly but to a significant extent counter that..instead we have a corporate capitalist created monster culture which says human beings, nature, Nothing has any intrinsic value (says this system) only values are what the market gives….You are not lovable, the culture tells us…You have no inherent rights, no intrinsic value…except through power and money…that’s what the culture teachers…this is the root cause of the *extent* of greed, explaining why it’s higher now in its politicadl manifestation than in previous centuries when human nature was the same, and greed existed, but did not “take over” to the same extent…Albert Einstein wrote in ‘why socialism’ (see the concluding parts especially) that he thought the worst part of capitalism were what? unfairness? undemocratic? no what he emphasized what its destruction of humanity’s social nature. OR humanity’s *humanity* one might put it..

  98. EDpeak says:

    Very important article. And some great graphics. But wish they still showed another graphic, which is impossible to post too often: the bar graph of volumes,

    See e.g.

  99. EDpeak says:

    Notice ends with 3.3 not the 3.6 of the earlier one shown at

    Putting the 3.3 vs 3.6 aside even, this bar graph format is as or more compelling than many other graphics,…the cie cubes and “death spiral” are very good…the video (much as animations are nice), less so. The bar graph is just a “it keeps falling off another cliff, and another” eye opener…

  100. wili says:

    Thanks for reminding us of that graph. Many of Wipneus’s graphs get across the same info with varying levels of effectiveness, the first in this series being the best, imvho:

    And don’t forget Jim Petite’s “Death Spiral”:

    Of which he just came out with a newer, more simplified version, for which see:

    The entry at: Jim_pettit | February 14, 2013 at 20:46

    None of these really will have much of an effect on the general public unless they have some distant glimmering of a notion of what impact an essentially ice free Arctic Ocean will have on global (and most acutely, Northern Hemisphere) climate.

    Part of the problem is that we don’t really know exactly, but it is likely to be a many-fold further exaggeration of last year–stalled systems bringing ever-deepening drought to some regions and nearly constant rain to others.

    Agriculture becomes impossible under these conditions.

    (NB: We are all kinda dependent on agriculture _not_ becoming impossible.)

  101. wili says:

    Hey Lou,

    I love all your stuff. But when I saw:

    “If our worldwide emissions literally went to zero tomorrow morning, the environment would continue to warm for another 30 or 40 years.”

    I had to comment that it is likely much longer than that now. Perhaps you missed the MacDougal et al. article last year on permafrost feedback. It prompted responses like “Oh sh!t” from otherwise rather staid bloggers like tamino and kate at climatesight.

    Here’s the link to the discussion of it over at SkSc:

    Look at the first graph under “Figure 3” then consider:

    >Climate sensitivity is almost surely over 3 degrees per doubling

    >This considers only one part of one carbon feedback: CO2 from the top 3 meters of terrestrial permafrost.

    >There are many other carbon (and other) feedbacks that will push the lines on that graph to an ever steepening upward slope; too long a list to include here, in fact.

    The imminent loss of Arctic sea ice just further ensures that this dynamic will drive forward inexorably–no ice means no heat sink and not reflectivity. Carbon feedback (both terrestrial and sea bed) and water vapor feedback kick in with a vengeance, probably driving that Ocean rather quickly to a year-round ice free state (except for calving from GIS, etc). The diminished difference between polar and equatorial temperatures will have devastating consequences for the jet stream. If you thought last summers blocked Rossby waves were bad…they were just very dim foreshadowings of the total climate chaos that is now upon us in the very shortly.

  102. wili says:

    Yes, I live in Minnesota, surrounded by lakes that freeze and melt every year. It is nearly instantaneous when you go from nearly total (thin) ice coverage to nearly ice free.

    We will not be seeing much ice (except from calving GIS glaciers) in the Arctic Ocean at the end of the summer again in anyone’s lifetime. There is no way to draw down enough CO2 out of the atmosphere or to reverse albedo feedbacks that effectively, even if we stopped all CO2 emissions now (which we should do anyway, just in case I’m wrong!).

    Ice melt is a state change. Once that ice is melted, it will not easily refreeze, and it will likely move quickly to a near-total ice-free state year round rather quickly (years to decades).

    As McKibben put it, we have now broken the polar ice cap. We can’t un-break it.

    We _can_ stop fueling the fire that is burning the planet. But I see little indication that we will even take that prudent step any time soon (read “ever”).

  103. wili says:

    Nice analogy.

    Yet everyone I know, including those who are quite knowledgeable about the climate situation, continue to “floor it” into the pile up–flying (even organizing events that require lots of others to fly), driving long distances, eating meat…

    >Are they choosing not to really look at the pile-up ahead?
    >Do they just like flooring it?
    >Is it too hard to imagine that they really are driving themselves (and everyone else) into a disaster?
    >Do they just not care about their lives?
    >Do they not realize that there are kids on board?

    What is wrong with all of us?

    I don’t mean to let the most evil perpetrators, the ff companies off the hook by any means. But we all freely give them our money while dutifully burning up their death-fuels that, to use another analogy, amounts to dropping bombs on ourselves and our children while funding the people who are building the bombs and propagandizing that the bombs aren’t bombs.

  104. Spike says:

    It’s a bit like cancer – which only becomes symptomatic and manifest very late in its total life history perhaps years after the first cell made the transition, sneaking up on you and suddenly presenting you with a completely unexpected irremediable situation.

  105. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes fj, in the last 250 years we have based virtually our whole culture on mechanism and while it has served us well materially, this cannot be said of the human and social consequences, ME

  106. EDpeak says:

    For “climate science followers” like us I like many of them…for the general public, I still think of Einstein’s dictum, “Simplify as much as possible, but not more than that” meaning don’t simplify to the point of losing the basic essential elements..but still simpler..

    That’s why despite personaly taking a lot of interest in the one with “linear” and “quadratic/parabolic” etc, for the public, I like with the year by year minima, which clear “cliffs” at 2007 and again another “cliff” drop in 2010, then a pathetic continued decline (not sharp cliff but not only not increasing, but a continued big slide down) in 2011 and 2012.

    Interesting factoid I haven’t heard, or “possibloid” since it’s a factoid about what is entirely plausible/possible: the year we hit 400ppm and the year of free of “virtually free” of ice summer minima, could be identical years or at least, not very far from one another. From a geological point of view it’s 100% certain they are “at the same time” but even from a human point of view, the year of 400ppm and the year of ice free actic, very possibly, might be the same, and very good chance, certainly less than 10 years apart…good chance less than 5 years apart..

    Lastly: CP and us commenters too often fall into the trap of assuming a shock will cause reaction (you’re right, public needs to be aware of effect on them) but the corporatized government resonds to corporate America (and TNCs generally) so unless it impacts the next few quarterly reports, forget it. Start building the from-the-ground-up community-owned democratic economic institutions today..

  107. EconomicDemocracyDotOrg says:

    The other grave error CP and us commenters make (or maybe we/CP know better but use that language anyway…) is that IF (a gigantic “if”) there is a reaction, to a climate shock, that it will take us in the right direction. More likely, policy as always will respond in a manner consistent with the institutions (corporate power) that dominate all of the Earth today: more privatization and “free” type of market “solutions” and Geoengineering and so forth. From the same folks who brought you the “fine print” for maisntream cap/trade proposals that says, basically, lots of oppportunities for private gaina nd profit, and lots of opportunities for “cuts” that are not really cuts in emissions

    Bottom line: if you want to save a decent future for humanity, changing the economic system to something saner and more humane is not some “nice goal but we have the more urgent environment to worry about first”…it’s got to be at the top of goals. Yes push for campaign finance type “reforms” knowing we’ll get (far) too little (far) too late at best, because otherwise reactionary forces will push us even further backwards..but decentralized tools in hands of public to Change Facts On The Ground moves faster than trying to get legislation through Congress..just like Free Software allows us to do things we don’t need to get Congress to pass. Similarly privacy tools, but also economic-exchange, organized action, decentralized energy and more – tools allowing you to (as both individual and social being) allowing you to survive & thrive while un-plugging from the need to wage slave for corporations.

  108. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’ve seen people smoking through their tracheostomies after surgery for cancer, propping up the bar and smoking with their chemotherapy pump in tow and smoking under the blankets until they were pock-marked with burns (and getting away with it). We are, as a global society, addicted to ignorance, materialism and denying everything bad, starting with death, because otherwise we would not cope. We no longer know how to live as ephemeral creatures, part of a line going back to the first simple life forms, and, one might have hoped, extending in time and space far into the future. Unfortunately the flaws in our intelligence and psyches have proved more poisonous and destructive than our very real talents. A pity. If, however, by some miracle, we survive the next fifty years, it will only be by making a great moral and spiritual transformation, for the good.

  109. Camburn says:

    Certainly is a lot of anguish posted above.

    Every interglacial has resulted in an ice free Arctic. MIS-5 was 5.0C warmer than present.

    MIS-11 was potentially even more dramatic than MIS-5

    One expects the Arctic to melt. Interglacial history informs us of that.

  110. Joe Romm says:

    but we’re on the cooling side of the interglacial!

  111. John McCormick says:

    Econ, I fully agree. Reaction will be public first but corporate will rule.

    With public and US gov then ready to throw money into our survival, the Haliburtons and Lockheed Martins will be standing in line waiting for the mega geo-engineering contracts and way before the rest of humanity decides on protocol, regs etc to guide the ‘throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” geo-engineers.

  112. John McCormick says:

    What is your measure of history..10,000 years, 20,000, maybe 25,000 years?

    How about the history of Aractic ice melt from 1979 to 2012?

    Does that do it for you?

  113. Dave Mitchell says:

    THANKS industrial revolution!

  114. Daniel Coffey says:

    Unhinged. A good word.

    What is rather peculiar is the utter ignorance of the supposedly well educated sitting in leadership positions. What did they study in school? Apparently not enough of the right subject matter, as their rhetorical tools will do no service against the Grim Reaper that is global warming.

    Apparently the Republican complaint that the educational system is broken extends more effectively to the top schools of the nation, those academic centers which teach economics and derivative trading, not math and science.

    But I forgot, money is power; money is speech; money is everything. And any education which imbues one with the power to make significant sums is ipso facto a good education.

  115. fj says:

    Merrelyn, the culture of mechanism has served us well in humanistic and social ways as well.

    Humanity’s advance has always been about learning.

  116. SqueakyRat says:

    There are basically no gun control laws, and the rich are enjoying the lowest tax rates in history.

  117. Camburn says:

    Mr. Romm:
    No, we are not on the cooling side.

    Our orbital pattern is mimicking MIS-11.

    As you will note from the research, during MIS-11 at approx this time frame, the Arctic became ice free.
    Greenland started a long term melt..etc.

    Unless orbital dynamics change, we are well within the historical temperatures of the Holocene.

  118. Camburn says:

    Mr. McCormick:
    One must look at all parameters.
    We know that the Arctic will become ice free based on orbital dynamics.

    The trend of less ice has been ongoing since the LIA.

  119. Eric says:

    Aren’t planes nice…wish they could transport us to another planet

  120. Solar Jim says:

    Perhaps you are assuming too much in the way of public understanding. The phrase “climate change” is limiting rhetoric for many. People who were heavily impacted by Storm Sandy indicated they had “no idea why this is happening.”

    Nice analogy about bombs – “developed nations,” via production of fossil carbonic acid gas, have launched the equivalent of numerous thermonuclear weapons that are scheduled to impact predictably (unless that substance is substantially removed, eg. 350 and less).

  121. Solar Jim says:

    We are Homo Sap Saps who are in the process of destroying “Spaceship Earth’s” oxygen supply via the killing of forest and phytoplankton ecosystems with Fossil Carbonic Acid (gas is CO2, liquid is H2CO3).

    It seems rather psycopathic, akin to the reported characteristics of globalized corporatism.

  122. Dale left coast says:

    Report from the Arctic today . . . Feb 21/13 . . .

    Arctic Ice . . . NORMAL . . . temp 50 below zero . . .