It’s happening! Humanity’s greatest nightmare is already well underway.
Wherever ice is found, appreciable melt is deep-seated, out of control, cascading into the seas shore-to-shore all across the planet. It’s all about too much heat! The trend is in place, and it is accelerating. Global warming is very real.
Thus, the most pertinent questions going forward are: How fast it occurs, and when will coastal cities start erecting levees?
As for erecting levees, the sooner the better in order to keep water out of city streets. How high to build is impossible to answer but most likely, the higher the better. Three feet, five feet, ten feet, twenty feet, thirty feet, who knows? One of those levels might hold (fingers crossed) until the end of this century, assuming fossil fuels are ousted soon, very soon. If not, all bets are likely off.
How is it possible to make such cataclysmic statements?
The answers are found in peer-review science at Antarctica, at the Arctic, at Greenland, at Patagonia, and at glaciers throughout the world. All of the world’s ice is melting at accelerating rates, too fast for comfort.
Ipso facto, seawater levels go up, but unpredictably, and this is why it makes sense to start planning levees around coastal cities. Otherwise, it’s too late once capricious water levels start rising. Nobody knows timing. Nobody.
But, recent studies are foreboding.
Recent studies show Antarctic volume losses accelerating, Fernando S. Paolo, et al, Volume Loss From Antarctic Ice Shelves is Accelerating, Science DOI: 10.1126, Science, Aaa0940, March 26, 2015.
“The overall picture they report online today in Science is grim: The 18-year record suggests that the average loss in volume of Antarctica’s ice shelves across the entire continent has accelerated significantly in the last decade,” Carolyn Gramling, staff writer, Antarctic is Rapidly Losing Its Edge, Science, Latest News, March 26, 2015.
According to scientists, the Totten Glacier, 90 miles long and 20 miles thick, containing enough water to raise sea levels by 11 feet is irreversibly cascading into the sea (source: J.S. Greenbaum, et al, Ocean Access to a Cavity Beneath Totten Glacier in East Antarctica, Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/ngeo2388, February 9, 2015).
Scientists believe it could take a long time for Totten Glacier to melt, maybe centuries, but nobody knows for sure. Along the way, over time, it impacts sea level higher and higher year by year, relentlessly.
Furthermore, “Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier could now be in a state of irreversible retreat, making it likely to become an even more significant contributor to the global sea level rise during the next two decades….” Heather Saul, Pine Island Glacier Melting Past ‘The Point of no Return’, The Independent, Jan. 14, 2014.
According to Pine Island Glacier researchers, “The grounding line, which separates the grounded ice sheet from the floating ice shelf, has retreated by tens of kilometres,” (source: News Story- Focus on Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, Jan. 14, 2014).
“The fact that Pine Island Glacier is currently retreating and thinning more rapidly than any other ice-covered area on earth is a major concern for scientists,” Ibid.
Unfortunately, no glacial computer model is capable of accurately simulating how quickly Pine Island Glacier, which contains 10% of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, will impact sea level. Nobody really knows.
Not only that but paradoxically, “Antarctica is losing ice mass while gaining ice extent. This is a confusing point to some… Land ice is different than sea ice. [As it happens] Antarctica is losing ice as illustrated… in the ice mass chart from GRACE satellite,” (source: NASA).
Estimates of ice loss have doubled, according to Malcolm McMillan, et al, Increased Ice Loses From Antarctica Detected by CryoSat-2, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 41, Issue 11, June 16, 2014 describes how new data collected by CryoSat-2 since its launch in 2010 has led to a doubling of the estimate of ice loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet. In addition, two other new studies predict that the current rapid rate of ice loss from West Antarctica will not slow down over the next century.
Antarctica contains 85% of the world’s ice, enough to raise sea levels by 200 feet. Nobody knows how rapidly Antarctica’s melt will endanger coastal cities, but science proves it is accelerating, in fact doubling previous estimates.
How much will seawater increase, maybe one foot, maybe four feet, maybe more by century’s end? Nevertheless, it’s the durable progression over time that drowns coastal cities and ocean islands. All of a sudden city dwellers wake up to the fact they are driving to work in seawater more than usual.
For example, North Carolina’s Outer Banks with its gorgeous beaches, wild horses and stately views of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, where tourists flock, large portions of the 200-mile island are collapsing, as seawater takes over. State Highway 12 repeatedly buckles and washes out, and portions of the island are down to 25% of original width.
According to Duke University’s Michael Orbach, professor emeritus of marine policy: “All these effects that people have been talking about for years are now actually starting to be seen, and they realize that we don’t know what to do about it,” Sara Peach, Rising Seas: Will the Outer Banks Survive? National Geographic, July 24, 2014.
Come to think of it, Dr. Orbach could have suggested a massive nationwide all-hands-on-deck emergency energy policy converting from oil, gas, and coal to renewable energy sources like wind and solar as one stopgap measure, even though it may be a pinch “late to the party.”
This nationwide emergency operation could be modeled on NASA’s Space Station, which is funded by Congress, surviving in outer space 100% solar 24/7 even when shaded as solar rechargeable fuel cells take over.
No space shuttle has ever carried a payload of coal or oil to the Space Station!
According to the British Antarctic Survey, Antarctica’s temperatures have risen by 2.8C (5F) over the past 50 years, considerably faster than the planet as a whole.
Antarctica may be locked into irreversible loss of ice, but its little sister up north may disappear entirely during an upcoming “September minimal.” This spells disaster.
Dissimilar to Antarctica, Arctic ice loss will not raise sea levels because the Arctic is a gigantic ice cube already displacing its own weight, similar to a glass of ice water, which does not overflow when the ice melts. Yet, that’s small solace when the devastation behind an ice-free Arctic is examined in detail.
According to Europe’s CryoSat-2, Arctic ice cover, only a few months ago, in October 2014 when the Arctic starts its post-summer freeze-up registered 7,500 km³ whereas during the 1980s the number was 20,000 km³ (source: PIOMAS – Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System). Indubitably, the Arctic is melting, a lot.
It is feared an ice-free Arctic during its September minimal will bring chaos to humanity on two counts. First, a warming Arctic disrupts weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere, bringing in its wake more extreme, long-duration weather patterns because a warming Arctic alters the atmospheric jet streams, influencing weather patterns. In turn, these extremes include bitter cold spells, torrential storms, and prolonged droughts, all of which likely turn worse the more it heats up.
Secondly, and very significantly, the ice cap has contained tons upon tons upon tons of methane (CH4) trapped in ice for millennia. An ice-free Arctic is likely to release massive amounts of methane, several times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) at entrapping heat in the atmosphere, bringing self-fulfilling runaway global warming. The planet would likely turn too hot, inhospitable, causing panic, suffering, and massive death, a nightmarish scenario that could decimate considerable life forms.
Thought-provokingly, the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Oceanography issued a paper, stating: “Given the estimated trend and the volume estimate for October–November of 2007 at less than 9,000 km³, one can project that at this rate it would take only 9 more years or until 2016 ± 3 years to reach a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer,” Wieslaw Maslowski, et al, The Future of Arctic Sea Ice, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 40: 625-654, May 2012.
The U.S. Naval Postgraduate School paper is highly critical of global climate models that miss or omit many Arctic processes, not accounting for important feedbacks, thus, erroneously projecting an ice-free Arctic far out into the future, decades away.
In contrast to the scientists calling for an ice-free Arctic decades away, the Naval paper coheres with predictions by other Arctic specialist like Prof Peter Wadhams, head of polar ocean physics at Cambridge University and Prof Carlos Durate, director of the Ocean Institute at the University of Western Australia.
As it goes, global warming profoundly impacts the Arctic. Similar to Antarctica, temperatures are running 2-3 times higher than the planet as a whole.
The ultimate conclusion of an ice-free Arctic may lead to a death trap planet whereupon great masses of people adhere to 24/7 vigilance whilst protecting meager food resources against desperate peripatetic gangs of hoodlums.
Glaciers are found on every continent except Australia. They are melting fast. It was two years ago that the first complete inventory of all the glaciers of the world, the Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI), was assembled.
Relevant studies depict an anthropogenic (human activity) source behind two-thirds of the meltdown of glaciers. “This is the first time scientists have attributed a certain portion of the glacial melt and the resulting sea-level rise to humans,” Gayathri Vaidyanathan, People Mostly to Blame for Recent Glacier Melt, Scientific American, Aug. 15, 2014.
Glaciers are woven into the fabric of human existence, most of the world depends upon glaciers as natural water towers, providing drinking water, crop irrigation, hydropower, and headwaters of major commercial rivers. Thus, as for the majority of the planet, glaciers are crucial to normal life patterns.
As glaciers deplete, more and more people will be pushed to the fringes of society, to migratory lifestyles, roaming the lands searching for sustenance, inevitably leading to tribal warfare.
In the United States, Alaska’s glacial surfaces are now dropping an average of 6 feet per year according to a University of Alaska analysis (Hot Times in Alaska, PBS-Scientific American Frontiers, June 15, 2014.)
Anthropogenic global warming, which is principally caused by burning too much oil, gas, and coal therefore appears destined to turn the planet into alikeness similar to the storyline of the film Mad Max (1979) where warring factions fight over depleting natural resources. There are no positives within such a scenario. It’s life at ground zero.
Who said global warming is a hoax?
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org