Arctic Sea Ice in Steep Decline

For years now prominent scientists have warned of the dangers of global warming and a concomitant tipping point for the Arctic. Because of abnormal heat, things are not looking good. Arctic sea ice is in a vertical free-fall. But, the melt season only just started!

This makes Obama’s call for regulation of coal-burning power plants look like a fanciful ephemeral wish list, too little, too late.

Do not expect to see this story on the nightly news. This news story comes by way of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) obtained whilst comparing images of sea ice concentration on May 14, 2014 to June 2, 2014.

Confirmation of the NRL images comes from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC – Boulder) reporting that ice concentration values plummeted by more than 286,000 square kilometers, an area the size of the state of Nevada (286,351 sq km), which alarmingly disappeared over a period of a day, not weeks or months, leaving glaciologists flat-footed and startled.

One can only hope and pray this is not an omen for the entire melt season. At that rate, there’s not enough ice to hold on for very long.

What’s up?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports huge sea surface temperature anomalies all over the Northern Hemisphere. Some anomalies range up to 8 C around the Arctic Ocean. That’s a lot for the Arctic!

As for the planet in toto, NOAA says that the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for April 2014 tied with April 2010 as the highest on record for the month, which is the most recent data available.

And, in confirmation of those readings, according to Arctic News: “Above sea surface anomalies are very high, much higher than historic annual temperature anomalies over land and oceans….” 1

As an aside (actually, a denunciation): Where’s the “cooling crowd” when you really need’em? Well, several of them are in the hallowed halls (cough, cough) of Congress scheming for ways to discredit Obama’s EPA broadside of the nation’s coal-burning industry.

Furthermore, now that Earth is reaching its maximum axial tilt towards the sun during the months of June and July its insulation; i.e., solar radiation, is higher in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth.

And, as bad luck would have it, according to a GFS Model Temperature Forecast by the University of Maine, a high melt rate is likely going forward. As such, here is a quote: “It should go without saying that a 70 degree reading in early June on the shores of the East Siberian Sea in the high Arctic is a clear sign of human-caused climate change gone nuts. And we are likely to see these and higher readings as spring proceeds into summer.”

Jeez, summer just started!

The Risks

The fear amongst many professionals, like the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, is that an ice-free Arctic will open the door for massive release of methane from hydrates embedded within the ice, leading to runaway global warming. That is a lights-out scenario of some kind, but nobody really knows for certain how it will happen and when and how badly.

Also, weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere will continue to turn ugly because of Arctic warmth disrupting the jet streams, which, in turn, disrupts agriculture with embedded droughts and torrential storms. This is already a shopworn story.

Here is a quote from AMEG’s web site: “If methane release from Arctic sea floor hydrates happens on a large scale — and reports suggest that it will — then this situation can start an uncontrollable sequence of events that would make world agriculture and civilization unsustainable. It is a responsible alarm, not alarmist, to say that it is a real threat to the survival of humanity and most life on Earth.”

The risks, according to Arctic News:

Temperature rises of the water close to the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean are very dangerous, as heat penetrating sediments there could cause hydrate destabilization, resulting in huge amounts of methane entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.

What to Do?

AMEG suggests geoengineering techniques to cool the Arctic. This requires a lot of research and testing and considerable governmental support. But, nobody has ever done it. And, there is considerable skepticism about the effects geoengineering may have on Mother Nature à la the Frankenstein climate syndrome, but nobody really knows for sure. It’s virgin science, not tested.

There are no easy answers to a prospective melt down of the Arctic, but it is fair to say that governments around the world will get involved once a crisis is declared. However, it is well beyond the scope of this article to know how that plays out.

Nevertheless, it is also fair to say that the U.S. has missed the mark big time on the issue of global warming. As the purported leader of the Free World, U.S. leadership on this one issue, which spans the globe, has been pitiful and ignorant. And, that may be understated.

After all, attempting to control the human-caused risks of runaway global warming is the one political issue where it is impossible to error on the side of enthusiasm.

Still, there’s a lot of summer ahead. Maybe the Arctic will get hit with a huge cold front.

But, where from?

Postscript:

The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people that would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012,

— Jon Huntsman (R-former governor of Utah and Republican presidential candidate) on ABC News, Aug. 21, 2011

  1. Arctic Sea Ice in Steep Decline, Arctic News, June 3, 2014 []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.