For years now Arctic sea ice, which is the ice pack and is not to be confused with an ice cap even though headline writers like to call it that, has been trending down steadily in extent and even more sharply in volume. Global warming is the accepted truth as the reason (not to be confused with 'proof' as that's for mathematics and overconfident lawyers) if one gauges by every major national academy of science in the world. Thus the news that a paper in a big journal – Environmental Research Letters – says we done it is no surprise. Perhaps it is the number that catches the eye: 75% to more than 90% likelihood that greenhouse gas forcing has driven the summer ice extent smaller and some are saying we may see an open and navigable late-summer Arctic Ocean within about 20 years. Arctic Multi-decadal Oscillation and other known and natural processes don't easily explain the scale of this trend, the study says. Even flimsy yachts are now making the Northwest Passage with some ease, threading their way through rotten ice, and freighters are making seasonal Northeast runs along the Siberian coast.
This news is from researchers in the UK and Japan. Only one large media outlet – unlike the stampede that headlined the news three days ago that a Greenland heat wave got the top of virtually all the island's huge (if shrinking slowly) ice cap to melt at one time – reported it. I'll get to an update on Greenland and other icy news momentarily in this post, but first…
Stories on Attribution of Arctic Sea Ice Trends to Greenhouse Forcing:
- The Guardian (UK) Alok Jha: Loss of Arctic sea ice '70 % man-made" ; Interesting. Often, reporters err on errors bars by choosing the high end, as it is most dramatic. Seventy percent is the study's low, least disturbing end. Jha's lead does say it "may even be up to 95% down to humans." Jha's quotes don't appear in the press release (see Grist below), a good sign he rang u[ the lead author. a young fellow whose bio says he's a fresh PhD from Bristol.
- Plus, a lot of blogs – AMERICAblog, Treehugger , James' Empty Blog (James should know his possessive is James's but he does give interesting, inside, back story on the study's lead author) …
Other icy or not news from the far north & Himalayas too:
1) No ice shortage around Barrow Alaska!
- Nat'l Geographic News – Joe Eaton: Shell Scales Back 2012 Arctic Drilling Goals ; The ironically wind-blown thickness of ice off Alaska's north side is just one of the woes that have beset its exploratory drilling plans. Excellent passages on, first,the inherent riskiness of Arctic offshore oil operations and second, the extensive efforts by Shell to at least do the exploration cautiously and carefully, beyond what regs demand. The story also and rightly discloses that its story is independent but that Shell is a sponsor of a related Nat'l Geo energy newsinitiative.
- Reuters – Yereth Rosen: Time ticking on Shell's offshore Arctic drilling ;
- The Hill/E2 blog – Ben Geman: Murkowski: Interior should consider extending Shell's Arctic drilling window ;
- Anchorage Daily News – Lisa Demer: Despite complications, Shell optimistic about Arctic drilling plans ; Interesting display of reader passion in the comments. Also, a bonus for airplane geeks: the front page pic of one of the Air Force's blindingly capable, glitch-bedeviled F-22 Raptors banking hard over Alaska this week with a slipstream condensation cloud wreathing it like a superhero's cape.
- Alaska Journal of Commerce – Tim Bradner: Nip and tuck for Shell season ;
- HuffPost Green blog – Keven Grandia: Only Three Years of Offshore Oil in the Arctic ; Grandia works for Greenpeace, as the byline acknowledges. So, consider the source. One also notes that a huge report to which he refers and links, by the USGS, describes (p. 24) just the estimated undiscovered oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska and presumably in the US EEZ, not the whole of the Arctic as Bradner's text implies.
2) More on Greenland's brief heat wave and runoff, plus some blowback at the news agency that will be no surprise ;
- FoxNews – Jeremy A. Kaplan: Skeptics put the freeze on NASA 'hot air' about Greenland ice ; Hmmm. One source is Patrick Michaels. More substantially off-kilter is the story's suggestion that NASA, while its press release spin may have been a bit extreme up top, also declared what this story declares with a snort as its rebuttal. Which is that full-island surface melt has happened before, several times, with a median (or average or something or other) gap of about 150 years between episodes.
- NYTimes (DotEarth – opinion) Andrew C. Revkin: 'Unprecedented' Greenland Surface Melt – Every 150 years? ; This is along the lines that the Fox account should have followed. NASA's public affairs effort blew it, Revkin writes, by overstating the rarity (one instance) of such melts by calling them unprecedented before getting around to what the climatological record actually says. Revkin does not pretend that he uncovered holes in NASA's release by himself – the release takes its own headline back as one reads along. And for all his persnicketiness about accuracy in climate reporting, Revkin frequently makes clear his feeling that climate change is real and the priority of policy changes to slow or stop it needs to go higher.
- Wired/GeekMom blog – Patricia Vollmer: Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet: Short Term Event of Long Term Climate Change? ; Vollmer is a meteorologist who reports keenly on the instruments that provided the Greenland data. She doesn't say whether she thinks this event is evidence for climate change or vice versa – she says one just cannot tell.
3) Meanwhile, in the Himalayas and despite that Climategate IPCC snafu:
- Scientific American/Observations Blog – David Biello : Deny This: Contested Himalayan Glaciers Really Are Melting, and Doing So at a Rapid Pace – Kind of Like Climate Change ; Could do without the snark in the headline – it seldom appeals to the people one would like to reconsider their opinions. The link-filled essay that follows merely triggers off the Himalaya data and gets into the wider labyrinth of climate change politics. Even Richard Lindzen comes up. Biello is a good and experienced reporter – columns such as this make clear his own hardly disinterested opinion, based on mainstream science though it be.
- Telegraph (UK) Geoffrey Lean: Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly after all, say scientists ;
Grist for the Mill: Journal full article on attribution of sea ice melt origin which has, understandably, more caveats regarding model uncertainties and pre-satellite data reliability than is reflected in news articles ; University of Reading Press Release ;
– Charlie Petit