Monday, October 22, 2007

NASA Examines Arctic Sea Ice Changes Leading to Record Low in 2007

"It will without doubt have come to your Lordship's knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated.

(This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations."
President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817

President of the Royal Society, Minutes of Council, Volume 8. pp.149-153, Royal Society, London.
20th November, 1817.

I feel for Doug Struck Washington Post writer who put this story together:
At the Poles, Melting Occurring at Alarming Rate

It must be tough to write a coherent story on a complex subject that your editors will publish and your readers will read, while keeping it under a half-million words.

The end result of Arctic melting should be lower albedo (more absorption of solar energy) but how we get there intrigues the hell out of me.

From NASA:
...Nghiem said the rapid decline in winter perennial ice the past two years was caused by unusual winds. "Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic," he said. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.

"The winds causing this trend in ice reduction were set up by an unusual pattern of atmospheric pressure that began at the beginning of this century," Nghiem said.

Also from NASA:

...The findings appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is authored by Makiko Sato, James Hansen and others from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University, New York; Oleg Dubovik, Brent Holben and Mian Chin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; and Tica Novakov, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.

New research from NASA scientists suggests emissions of black soot alter the way sunlight reflects off snow. According to a computer simulation, black soot may be responsible for 25 percent of observed global warming over the past century.

Soot in the higher latitudes of the Earth, where ice is more common, absorbs more of the sun's energy and warmth than an icy, white background. Dark-colored black carbon, or soot, absorbs sunlight, while lighter colored ice reflects sunlight.

Soot in areas with snow and ice may play an important role in climate change. Also, if snow- and ice-covered areas begin melting, the warming effect increases, as the soot becomes more concentrated on the snow surface. "This provides a positive feedback (i.e. warming); as glaciers and ice sheets melt, they tend to get even dirtier," said Dr. James Hansen, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. Source

From the BBC:
Soot 'makes global warming worse'
The effects of soot in changing the climate are more than most scientists acknowledge, two US researchers say.

Shh. Don't want to piss the Chinese off.

China Soot Heating Pacific Ocean

There may be an unexpected sooty surcharge on all those cheap Chinese imports, say atmospheric scientists. The carbon soot from China is warming and polluting the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean and all the way to North America, according to a new study. MORE from the Discovery Channel

"Some days we can definitely tell that the air has come from China," said Kim Holmen, research director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, at the station which has spectacular views over fjords, mountains and glaciers of Spitsbergen island....Source

HT on the WaPo story: WSJ's Energy Roundup.
( Go for the link but stay for the comments. Whenever Mr. Gongloff puts up a Peak Oil post it's like watching a pack of rabid dogs at a cat show)
Update: I am beginning to suspect Mark takes pleasure from unleashing the hounds, here's his follow-up: Reactions to Peak Oil Report
(Click here for reactions from some Energy Roundup readers.)