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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

 
Have we crossed a tipping point in the Arctic?

by Gaius Publius


Dr. Michael Mann giving us the latest news about Arctic sea ice (source)


We've covered what's happening in the Arctic before. For example:
Now comes climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann to tell us it's much worse, and the changes are coming much faster, than we thought even last year. As Hartmann says in his introduction, temperatures in the Arctic in January were 4°C (more than 7°F) higher than average. It's all in Dr. Mann's interview with Thom Hartmann (above).

A few excerpts:

(1:52) "Even I find myself surprised sometimes at the rate at which some of these changes are taking place — taking place faster than we expected, faster than our models predicted would be the case..."

(2:40) "[This year, winter Arctic sea ice] appears to have come to a peak about a month earlier and at a much lower level than we normally see at [winter] peak. And if it continues on this trajectory, we are afraid we will see levels of [sea ice] retreat this summer unlike anything we've seen before."

(4:10) "With all that warmth in the Arctic escaping into the atmosphere, it changes the pattern of the northern hemisphere jet stream ... [which gives us] some of the unusual weather we've seen in recent winters...."

(5:17) "This El Niño has been a very unusual El Niño, and all bets are off...." (I found this discussion fascinating. This is a most unusual El Niño, and global warming has almost completely removed the "heavy rainfall" effect that places like California were counting on to relieve their drought.)

(7:58) The tipping points discussion starts here. Have we passed a tipping point about ice in the Arctic? What other tipping points should we be concerned about?

Dr. Mann's answer begins, "Tipping points are like land mines. You don't know exactly where they lie, and you certainly don't want to step on one. What we're doing with climate change right now is we are risking stepping on more and more of these land mines."

Mann talks about the tipping point we have passed in the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet that commits us to 10-12 feet of sea level rise.

The good news — if we stop emissions, free ice in the Arctic is restorable, unlike ice in the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets. (Of course, we do have to stop emissions to do that.)

(10:35) "The climate change deniers often like to complain about how much it will cost to reduce our carbon emissions ... and the sad fact is it's going to cost us a whole lot more simply not having acted on this problem soon enough. And we're already seeing the costs..."

To the final question, why doesn't this get covered more in the press, the answer was enlightening. In part, Mann said that is seems this is a slowly evolving problem.

Me: It's not slowly evolving. If you live another 10 years, you'll see the start of the panic. For reference, here's what's been happening to Arctic sea ice extent (as opposed to volume) year after year. The blue band shows the upper and lower range of a set of IPCC model predictions (here are many models). The red line is observations. Note that the chart shows data through 2009 only. 2012 was even worse, dipping to 3.6 million km2.


(Click to enlarge.)


By the way, the Arctic is heating because the northern hemisphere is where all the, well, hot air is. Take a look at this NASA animation and note which hemisphere has all the industrialization. You can almost watch it rise and then move north.




Time for a mobilization to actually address this? I think it's long past time.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

GP
 

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