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Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts
Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times
The Arctic ice cap shrank so much this summer that waves briefly lapped along two long-imagined Arctic shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia.
Over all, the floating ice dwindled to an extent unparalleled in a century or more, by several estimates.
Now the six-month dark season has returned to the North Pole. In the deepening chill, new ice is already spreading over vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Astonished by the summer’s changes, scientists are studying the forces that exposed one million square miles of open water – six Californias – beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979.
At a recent gathering of sea-ice experts at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Hajo Eicken, a geophysicist, summarized it this way: “Our stock in trade seems to be going away.”
Scientists are also unnerved by the summer’s implications for the future, and their ability to predict it.
Complicating the picture, the striking Arctic change was as much a result of ice moving as melting, many say
(2 October 2007)
Climate Change May Sink us This Century: Maldives
Simon Gardner, Reuters via Planet Ark
COLOMBO – Unless the world starts taking climate change seriously and cuts greenhouse emissions, the Maldives could become uninhabitable this century, the president of the Indian Ocean archipelago says.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been telling the world for 20 years that his cluster of 1,200 islands dotted across 500 miles (800 km) of sea off southern India is imperilled by climate change.
With a United Nations climate panel forecasting world sea levels likely to rise by up to 59 cm (2 ft) by 2100 due to global warming, the clock is ticking.
(2 October 2007)
The Race Against Warming
Bill McKibben, Washinton Post
It’s the oldest and most cliched of metaphors, but when it comes to global warming, it’s the only one that really works: We’re in a desperate race. Politics is chasing reality, and the gap between them isn’t closing nearly fast enough.
Consider the news from the real world, the one where change is measured with satellites and thermometers, not focus groups: Arctic ice is melting on an unbelievable scale — an area the size of Britain disappeared each week in late summer as the record for minimum ice cover, set in 2005, was shattered by more than 400,000 square miles, meaning about a 27 percent loss. Forget the Petraeus report — what historians will note about September 2007 is that the Northwest Passage was free of ice for the first time since humans started keeping track.
Shaken scientists see every prediction about the future surpassed by events.
(29 September 2007)
Arctic Thaw May Be at ‘Tipping Point’
Alister Doyle, Reuters via Common Dreams
OSLO – A record melt of Arctic summer sea ice this month may be a sign that global warming is reaching a critical trigger point that could accelerate the northern thaw, some scientists say.0928 06
“The reason so much (of the Arctic ice) went suddenly is that it is hitting a tipping point that we have been warning about for the past few years,” James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Reuters.
The Arctic summer sea ice shrank by more than 20 percent below the previous 2005 record low in mid-September to 4.13 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles), according to a 30-year satellite record. It has now frozen out to 4.2 million sq km.
The idea of climate tipping points — like a see-saw that suddenly flips over when enough weight gets onto one side — is controversial because it is little understood and dismissed by some as scaremongering about runaway effects.
The polar thaw may herald a self-sustaining acceleration that could threaten indigenous peoples and creatures such as polar bears — as Arctic sea ice shrinks, the darker ocean soaks up ever more heat than reflective snow and ice.
In Germany, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says Arctic sea ice has “already tipped.”
(28 September 2007)