A salute, if not a 21-gun salute, to The Guardian and its enviro reporter John Vidal is in order. He's just back from moseying along the edge of the Arctic ice pack aboard an icebreaker as summer wanes and the re-freeeze season begins. The result is a solid series of reports on the ever-more not solid Arctic sea surface. Those aboard are telling him they they have had to go far north of the 20th century, mid-September norm to find anything but scraps of ice. But find it they do and, as the vessel moves slowly through a dense sea-fog with the temperature a few degrees below zero centigrade, the signs of new ice forming is all-around.
"From now until June, the Arctic sea ice will refreeze," he wrote in one dispatch last week. "First it will be glassy, thin, 'shuga', 'grease' or pancake' ice, unable to bind the floes together. But within weeks, the whole icecap will visibly reform, growing up to 100,000 sq km a day until the melt season begins again next year."
Polar bears, he reports, look up casually from their seal hunts as the ship cruises by. The on-scene color and detail show why (to no surprise) being there almost always beats re-doing a press release while elaborating on things via phone calls and emails. One must calibrate the praise a bit, for he is aboard the Arctic Sunrise. It is a Greenpeace ship run largely to harass whalers, oil explorers, or others that the environmental group deems a foe of planetary sustainability. The vessel once was used by seal hunters, so has gotten a second existence as instrument of opposition to such practices. That's a worthy purpose that Greenpeace pursues. But the ship is by its nature no place to find objective opinonators about such matters.
Vidal's reports appear highly informed. He easily keeps in contact with diverse sources thanks to modern satellite communication. His accounts are vivid and appropriately melancholy over the direction things are going. Vidal got a chance, somehow, at a berth. If no similar cruise aboard a government-operated science research vessel were available, what climate change reporter would say no? I wouldn't. Maybe, just to be wicked, I'd check around to see if there are any actual socialists on board. Why? Many contrarians like to say the green movement is a socialist, internationalist, redistributionist feint and that global warming is one of the myths it nefariously fomented to undermine liberty, sovereignty, and unrestrained capitalism. It'd be mischievous and therefore fun to talk to one of the people in the movement who at all fits that weird view of reality.
For more on results on the Guardian's and Vidal's effort to check this year's record ice melt first hand, go here.
To force a transition, it happens that Greenpeace has on at least one occasion sent the Arctic Sunrise up the Amazon River. Thus we pivot to another recent package in the Guardian. It is also another sample of its support for eye-witness environmental reporting. It is on Amazonia, its rain forest, and the peril facing a part of it in Ecuador:
- Guardian (Sept 2-3) - Jonathan Watts: World's conservation hopes rest on Ecuador's revolutionary Yasuni model; plus Wildlife at risk as Amazon tribes come under threat from oil exploration; Also don'st miss a collection of photos from a Quito-based naturalist. You gotta sort through them. I love the saw-snouted wax bug. The reporting in the stories is a bit overdone. The headline on that first yarn with its "World's conservation hopes rest on..." line is hyperbolic. I'd like to see a reference to suport the assertion that the Amazon is the world's greated oxygen supplier and carbon sink. Surely the ocean is #1. But the Amazon basin, while perhaps not up to its cliche as the lungs of the world, is a big deal.
One More Thing:
Another account among the many on the record-shattering low in sea ice...
- LA Times - Monte Morin: Record loss of Arctic ice may trigger extreme weather ; Several outlets highlighted analyses by a Rutgers professor and others who argue that the meanders of the jet stream ought to get larger north-south as dwindling sea ice upsets the Earth's recent pattern of heat flow, but also should (say the modesl) tend to remain in fixed patterns for longer. That could mean that bouts of drought, rain, or other weather could be more persistent. It has to do with blocking highs in weather talk. But a suggestion to editors - if you get copy that says, as this story does, that Arctic sea ice "had dwindled to the smallest size ever observed by man, covering almost half the area it did 30 years ago," demand a rewrite. "Almost half" means less than half, usually. But if something falls to almost half, better make clear whether if went below half, or only nearly to it. If it did not quite reach that marker one whould say it fell to barely half. If it did, it fell to less than half.
- The Guardian - Stephen Leahy: Arctic sea ice melt 'may bring harsh winter to Europe' ; The Guardian doesn't miss many climate change developments - this one via Canadian enviro freelancer Leahy.