Friday, June 15, 2018

Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues, we are in serious trouble

This is just a compliation of guesses and contrary to many direct measurements

Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.

The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.

Antarctica, the planet’s largest ice sheet, lost 219 billion tons of ice annually from 2012 through 2017 — approximately triple the 73 billion-ton melt rate of a decade ago, the scientists concluded. From 1992 through 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tons of ice annually.

The study is the product of a large group of Antarctic experts who collectively reviewed 24 recent measurements of Antarctic ice loss, reconciling their differences to produce the most definitive figures yet on changes in Antarctica. Their results — known formally as the “Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise” (IMBIE) — were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“We took all the estimates across all the different techniques, and we got this consensus,” said Isabella Velicogna, an Antarctic expert at the University of California at Irvine and one of the many authors from institutions in 14 countries. The lead author was Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England.

“The detailed record shows an acceleration, starting around 2002,” Beata Csatho, one of the study authors and a glaciologist at the University at Buffalo, said in an email.

Csatho noted that comparing the first and last five-year periods in the record reveals an even steeper acceleration. “Actually, if you compare 1997-2002 to 2012-2017, the increase is even larger, a factor of more than 5!!” she wrote.

For the total period from 1992 through the present, the ice sheet has lost nearly 3 trillion tons of ice, equating to just less than 8 millimeters of sea-level rise. Forty percent of that loss has occurred in the past five years.

The rapid, recent changes are almost entirely driven by the West Antarctic ice sheet, which scientists have long viewed as an Achilles’ heel. It is known to be losing ice rapidly because it is being melted from below by warm ocean waters, a process that is rendering its largest glaciers unstable.

West Antarctica lost 159 billion tons of ice a year from 2012 through 2017, compared with 65 billion tons from 2002 through 2007.

The growth is largely attributable to just two huge glaciers: Pine Island and Thwaites. The latter is increasingly being viewed as posing a potential planetary emergency because of its enormous size and its role as a gateway that could allow the ocean to someday access the entirety of West Antarctica, turning the marine-based ice sheet into a new sea.

Pine Island is now losing about 45 billion tons per year, and Thwaites is losing 50 billion. Both numbers are higher than the annual losses for any other glacier in the world.

“The increasing mass loss that they’re finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that’s changing most rapidly,” said Christine Dow, a glaciologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario who was not involved in the research. “And it’s the area that we’re most worried about, because it’s below sea level.”

“If you start removing mass from there, you can have a very large-scale evacuation of ice into the ocean and significant sea-level rise,” Dow said.


Swedish Researchers Confirm 20th Century Warming “Does Not Stand Out” Over Past 2500 Years!

A very recent study by Swedish scientists appearing in the journal Climate of the Past examining bottom water temperature (BWT) off the coast of Western Sweden (Gullmar Fjord) going back 2500 years found that “the most recent warming of the 20th century does not stand out.”

Team of researchers led by Irina Polovodova Asteman, University of Gotheberg, produced a record of bottom water temperature off the coast of western Sweden and found 20th century warming “does not stand out.”

The 2500-year winter temperature record was of reconstructed by using a fjord sediment archive from the NE Atlantic and through analysis of oxygen isotopes and other methods. The study was based on an approximately 8-meter long sediment core extracted from the Gullmar Fjord (Sweden).

They found that the Gullmar Fjord d18O record mainly reflects variability of the winter bottom water temperatures with a minor salinity influence.

The researchers also pointed out that a comparison with instrumental winter temperature observations from Central England and Stockholm shows that the fjord record picks up the contemporary warming of the 20th century

According to the scientists, the Gullmar Fjord record shows a substantial and long-term warming during the Roman Warm Period (~350 BCE – 450 CE) which was followed by variable bottom water temperatures during the Dark Ages (~450 – 850 CE).

The Viking Age/Medieval Climate Anomaly (~850 – 1350 CE) is also indicated by positive bottom water temperature anomalies, while the Little Ice Age (~1350 – 1850 CE) is characterized by a long-term cooling with distinct multidecadal variability.

The team of Swedish scientists, led by Irina Polovodova Asteman, Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, noted “the most recent warming of the 20th century does not stand out, but appears to be comparable to both the Roman Warm Period and the MCA (Medieval Climate Anomaly).”


Blue state rejects free electricity to avoid seeing a wind farm

Put out the NIMBY alert for Maryland. This very blue state is, of course, largely onboard with the entire “keep it in the ground” movement to abandon fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy. Unless, of course, you want to generate any of that electricity within sight of the state’s tony coastal communities. In Ocean City, Maryland, an energy company called U.S. Wind has plans in place to develop the second largest wind farm in the country offshore there, taking advantage of the almost constant breezes which blow in off the Atlantic. The amount of renewable electricity it would generate would be impressive indeed.

There’s just one problem. The locals don’t want any wind turbines within thirty miles of the coast for fear that it might obstruct the view and cut into tourism. U.S. Wind tried to tempt them by offering to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into other community development projects as an incentive. The locals said no. The company offered to build in a guarantee that they would cover any unanticipated cost overruns so Ocean City wouldn’t be stuck with the tab. The natives still wouldn’t relent. The final offer was truly incredible. The developers offered to provide Ocean City with free electricity for the life of the wind farm.

Ocean City officials say they don’t want offshore wind turbines to be built within 30 miles of the resort town’s beaches under any circumstances — not even in exchange for free electricity.

That was among the offers energy developer U.S. Wind recently made to appease concerns that its planned wind farm off Maryland’s coast will harm tourism.

The company also dangled other community investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and volunteered to alter its plans if Ocean City agreed to cover any new costs.

None of that was adequate to allay fears that tourists will abandon Ocean City and flock to other beaches if Maryland’s horizon is dotted with towering wind turbines, though. Town leaders rejected the offer, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said.

The major problem that Ocean City has here is that the final decision really isn’t up to them. The Maryland Public Service Commission already signed off on the project and the final authority for such offshore developments usually lies with the federal government. All they can do is fight it in court and attempt to bog down the process while they look for a sympathetic judge to take their side. In the end, they may wind up losing out and seeing the wind farm built anyway without collecting any of the goodies that the developer was offering.

This is a classic case of NIMBYism taken to its extremes. Maryland’s liberal elites are all in favor of punishing fossil fuel companies and lecturing everyone on the need for cleaner, more “responsible” energy policies. But when the time comes to actually start generating all of the clean electricity, they don’t want those nasty turbines cluttering the few from the coast.

Maryland isn’t the only place this is happening. In Vermont, one of the greenest of the green refuges, there is a state mandate to shift almost entirely to wind energy over the next decade. But at the same time, outraged residents have convinced their state legislators to enact some of the most restrictive laws on wind turbines in the nation. The machines must be “as quiet as a public library” and have to be set back from residences and roads by at least ten times the height of the tower. Since most of the towers in use are at least 500 feet tall, that means they have to find places to install them that are literally a mile away from anything. Wind energy developers have described themselves as being “ready to give up on Vermont.”

And all the while, American continues to expand their lead as the dominant global force in petroleum and natural gas production. It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?


Banning Plastic Straws Harms Real People

SPOTLIGHT: Banning plastic straws is the latest trend.

BIG PICTURE: Here in Canada, the city of Vancouver has outlawed disposable drinking straws as of June 2019.

The European Union is talking about doing the same. Greenpeace thinks they should be curtailed in Australia.

As I’ve previously explained, these measures have no hope of cleaning up the ocean since the vast majority of trash polluting it comes from impoverished countries in Asia and Africa with no waste management systems.

Ten-year-olds may believe they’re saving turtles and seabirds by banning straws, but that’s wishful thinking. Nothing will seriously change until the garbage disposal problems of the third world are addressed.

If the litter is a concern along our coastlines, let’s do a better job of addressing littering. But let us not insult each other’s intelligence by pretending that banning straws will significantly reduce the total trash ending up in landfills.

Straws are small and weigh nothing. As a percentage of the overall refuse we produce each year, they’re trivial. Less than a rounding error.

The problem with these kinds of environmental crusades is that the crusaders believe they’re on the side of the angels. It doesn’t occur to them that their campaign might have unintended consequences – that real people might get hurt.

Vancouver was recently described as “the most ‘Asian’ city outside Asia.” Its ban will adversely affect the numerous small businesses who sell wildly popular Asian bubble tea, as well as thick milkshakes.

“Change like this can be costly,” says the president of a Restaurant and Food Services Association. Why increase costs for no discernible benefit? Why interfere with private businesses (be they successful or marginal) minus a compelling reason?

Then there are the sick and the disabled. Near the end of her long battle with breast cancer, the only way my mother could manage to drink was through a straw.

People with a range of disabilities also need them. One woman who is incapable of holding a cup told a newspaper that no straws were available in three establishments she visited recently, and that the staff was decidedly non-apologetic. From her perspective, her already difficult life is being made more so:

We’re really kind of viliyfing [sic] people who need straws or forgetting about them completely – let’s be honest –  in encouraging shaming people who are asking for them.

Another woman, confined to a wheelchair, suffers from a disease that affects her ability to swallow. The same newspaper article reads:

“Are straws then going to be something you buy at a medical supply store? And as soon as you do that they become more expensive and they become less accessible,” says [Vancouver’s Gabrielle] Peters, on a fixed income of disability benefits she estimates at $1,100 per month. “You’re just adding that cost to me.”

TOP TAKEAWAY: Banning plastic straws in affluent countries has no realistic chance of improving the state of the ocean. But these bans are making life worse for small business people, sick people, and the disabled.


Is Australia’s current drought caused by climate change? It’s complicated

Rubbish!  They are just obfuscating below. It's not complicated at all.  Rainfall in Australia regularly oscillates between the North and South of the continent. If there is drought in Victoria, there will be extra rain in Queensland, and vice versa.

And the present pattern is a confirmation of that.  While there is reduced rainfall down South we in Brisbane are getting a lot of rain.  Autumn and winter here are normally dry but this month  there seems to be rain a couple of times a week.  And in March it rained nearly every day, with some big falls among that. Statewide it was much the same.  Hence the headline in March: "Queensland's wet weather breaks dozens of records as rain still falls" and "Far North Queensland residents urged to be vigilant in floodwaters across the region"

Cairns in March

And the trees and plants are showing the effects of all the rain.  This year, my cumquat tree has really leapt for the sky. It's put on at least a foot of growth recently.  It seems to know more than the meteorologists do.

We do have some of those splendid fine clear days at the moment that Brisbane winters are known for but we have just as many cloudy days.

How come a humble social scientist like me knows all that while there is no hint of that knowledge from the climate mavens below? They know bupkis but as long as they can drag in some mention of climate change they are in clover

Much of southern Australia is experiencing severe drought after a very dry and warm autumn across the southern half of the continent. Australia is no stranger to drought, but this recent dry spell, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to drought-stricken parts of the country, has prompted discussion of the role of climate change in this event.

Turnbull said that farmers need to “build resilience” as rainfall “appears to be getting more variable”. This prompted former Nationals leader John Anderson to warn against “politicising” the drought by invoking climate change. This in turn was followed by speculation from numerous commentators about the links between climate change and drought.

So are droughts getting worse, and can they be attributed to climate change? Drought is a complex beast and can be measured in a variety of ways. Some aspects of drought are linked with climate change; others are not.

In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology uses rainfall deficiencies to identify regions that are under drought conditions.

Droughts are also exacerbated by low humidity, higher wind speeds, warmer temperatures, and greater amounts of sunshine. All of these factors increase water loss from soils and plants. This means that other metrics are often used to describe drought which go beyond rainfall deficiencies alone. These include the Palmer Drought Severity Index and the Standardised Precipitation Evaporation Index, for example.

This means that there are hundreds of metrics which together can provide a more detailed representation of a drought. But this also means that droughts are less well understood and described than simpler phenomena such as temperature and rainfall.

So is climate change affecting Australian droughts?

As we have so many ways of looking at droughts, this is a more complex question than it might first sound. Climate change may affect these drought metrics and types of drought differently, so it is hard to make general statements about the links between human-induced climate change and drought.

We know that over southern Australia, and in particular the southwest, there has been a rapid decline in winter rainfall, and that this has been linked to climate change. In the southeast there has also been a decline but the trend is harder to distinguish from the year-to-year variability.

For recent short-term droughts in southern Australia, analyses have found an increased likelihood of rainfall deficits related to human-caused climate change. Also, it has been suggested that the character of droughts is changing as a result of the human-induced warming trend.

There is some evidence to suggest that widespread and prolonged droughts, like the Millennium Drought, are worse than other droughts in recent centuries, and may have been exacerbated by climate change. But the role of climate change in extended drought periods is difficult to discern from background climate variability. This is particularly true in Australia, which has a much more variable climate than many other parts of the world.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To know what is the "normal" extent of Arctic Ice you need to know the extremes. What is telling is that they are comparing the extent of ice in the 1980s when we just emerged from an extended cooling period where there was great concern that the next Ice Age was beginning.

Just as the AGW theorists love to pick the temperatures and glacial extents that were present at the end of the Little Ice Age as their starting points the "satellite record" also happens to begin at the end of a shorter but still significant colder period which means they are trying to tell us that the "normal" they want to return to is actually an outlier. It is more likely that normal is what we are seeing now.