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Greenland, or why you might care about ice physics

Stuart Staniford, The Oil Drum
I’ve been trying this week to get a grip on the science of the Greenland Ice Sheet. It’s a complex and poorly understood business, but there seems to be enough meat here that I think it should be on The Oil Drum agenda.

We might do worse than start with with a report from the BBC. They covered a talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this last week.

…The big risk is that we will set in motion something unstoppable before we see overwhelmingly clear evidence of it.

At any rate, what is clear is that the Greenland icesheet melting very urgently needs to be understood. In particular in contemplating tar-sands, coal-to-liquids, etc, as solutions to peak oil, we need to understand what gamble with the ice sheet we are making, exactly.
(X Jan 2007)

Melting ice means global warming report all wet, say some experts who warn it’ll be even worse

Associated Press via IHT
Later this week in Paris, climate scientists will issue a dire forecast for the planet that warns of slowly rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

But that may be the sugarcoated version.

Early and changeable drafts of their upcoming authoritative report on climate change foresee smaller sea level rises than were projected in 2001 in the last report. Many top U.S. scientists reject these rosier numbers. Those calculations don’t include the recent, and dramatic, melt-off of big ice sheets in two crucial locations:

They “don’t take into account the gorillas – Greenland and Antarctica,” said Ohio State University earth sciences professor Lonnie Thompson, a polar ice specialist. “I think there are unpleasant surprises as we move into the 21st century.”

Michael MacCracken, who until 2001 coordinated the official U.S. government reviews of the international climate report on global warming, has fired off a letter of protest over the omission.

The melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are a fairly recent development that has taken scientists by surprise. They don’t know how to predict its effects in their computer models. But many fear it will mean the world’s coastlines are swamped much earlier than most predict.

Others believe the ice melt is temporary and won’t play such a dramatic role.

That debate may be the central one as scientists and bureaucrats from around the world gather in Paris …
(27 Jan 2007)

Experts split over climate danger to Antarctica

Robin McKie, Observer
Serious disagreement has broken out among scientists over a United Nations climate report’s contention that the world’s greatest wilderness – Antarctica – will be largely unaffected by rising world temperatures.

The report, to be published on Friday, will be one of the most comprehensive on climate change to date, and will paint a grim picture of future changes to the planet’s weather patterns. Details of the report were first revealed by The Observer last weekend.

However, many researchers believe it does not go far enough. In particular, they say it fails to stress that climate change is already having a severe impact on the continent and will continue to do so for the rest of century. At least a quarter of the sea ice around Antarctica will disappear in that time, say the critics, though this forecast is not mentioned in the study.

One expert denounced the report – by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC – as ‘misleading’. Another accused the panel of ‘failing to give the right impression’ about the impact that rising levels of carbon dioxide will have on Antarctica.
(28 Jan 2007)

Bush’s Climate Remarks Weighed for Policy Shift

Peter Baker and Steven Mufson, Washington Post
It was just a couple of dozen words out of more than 5,000, uttered so fast that many in the audience missed them at first. But President Bush’s commitment to fight global warming in his State of the Union address this week has echoed around the world and provoked debate about whether he is shifting his view of climate change.

The words themselves were not radically different from what he has said in the past in other settings. As he addressed Congress and a national television audience, Bush forecast energy breakthroughs that will reduce U.S. dependence on oil. “These technologies,” he said, “will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.”

But it was the first time in Bush’s six years in office that he mentioned the issue in a State of the Union. And he did it while presenting a high-profile plan to cut gasoline consumption — and with it, greenhouse gases. “Every word is crafted in that speech and every word has meaning behind it,” said Christine Todd Whitman, Bush’s former Environmental Protection Agency administrator. “So the fact that he mentioned climate change in that context, that was a step forward, that was a change.”

Leaders in Europe and Asia took notice as well, hailing what they saw as a turning point while renewing pressure on Bush to accompany words with more meaningful action. Environmentalists were skeptical but said Bush may be starting to respond to the growing political momentum for grappling with climate change.
(27 Jan 2007)