I’m not suggesting this as an alternative to current modes of flight, but this is worth a watch, if only for the sheer bloody maniacal genius that went into it.

Records are made to be broken, and a bunch of students at the University of Maryland are smashing the ones they just set earlier this summer. They’re so close to winning the crazy-hard American Helicopter Society’s Igor I. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter competition — watch an amazing eight-foot flight past the jump.
Henry Enerson, a freshman at UMD, is one of a handful of pilots taking turns furiously pedaling in the cockpit of the Gamera II, a human-powered quadcopter. The team has already met one major requirement of the Sikorsky Prize this week, hovering for 65 seconds. Now if they can hit one minute and get a little higher than 8 feet — to exactly 3 meters, or 9.8 feet — they’ll win the $250,000 32-year-old prize.
The team has been testing all week but had to take a break for a few hours today so the students could go to class. We’re following their progress and we’ll update here if they set any further records — meanwhile, watch Henry’s flight below.



From NASA.
Bear in mind that this year’s minimum is still weeks away.

Ice Fall Continues

August 31, 2012

Top: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Bottom: University of Bremen

Links to these and other displays at the Arctic Sea Ice Graphs page.


From the supposedly vacationing Neven, author of the Arctic Ice Blog:

I’m supposed to be on a holiday and should let this one slide, but it’s too much. I was expecting fake skeptics to remain mostly silent in face of the ice massacre up north, but apparently they acutely sense how big this blow is to the remaining shred of their credibility, and so they upped the ante of misleading and distorting stupidity. Anyone can see and judge the silliness of paid shrill Marc Morano, 5-sentence posts regurgitator/vomiter Steve Goddard and of course WUWT. But this Sunday Times article, written by well-known pseudo-journalist Jonathan Leake (search for his name on Deltoid) had a quote by presumed scientist John Christy that really got my hackles up:

Professor John Christy director of the Earth System Science Centre at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said the Arctic had indeed warmed, but there was also anecdotal and other evidence suggesting similar melts from 1938-43 and on other occasions.

“Climate change is a murky science”, he said. “To some it’s an easy answer to say it’s due to extra green house gasses. To the rest of us, separating natural variability from human impacts remains a wicked problem.”

Commenters over at Skeptical Science quickly took this nonsense apart. FirstFrankD:

Danske Meteorologiske Institut published a series of annual reports on arctic sea ice covering most years from 1893 to 1956. The link has one folder per year, with each containing individual pages (month identified by the trailing digit) and the whole annual report (about 5 meg each).

Just referring to August extent…

Its true that ice extent was lower in the 1930s than it had been in the preceding 30 years. In particular, 1938 saw a dramatic reduction from the previous years – it was probably 1.4 M km^2 below the then long term average and maybe 0.6 M km^2 below the already low years in the late 30’s (carefully measured using Eyeball, Mk I).

So, it is fair to say there were some big melts in the 30’s. But Christy’s false equivalence is an epic fail – “similar melts” is pretty nice weasel-wording for mine. 1.4 M km^2 below recent climatology? Considered like that, 1938 was like 2010, I guess.

But in absolute terms, August 1938 extent was much greater (4 M km^2?) than today. So any attempt to conflate the two is…well…I can[‘t think of an adjective suitable for polite company.

Taking the Kinnard graphic – the 1930’s “similar melt” is the second last dip on the graph, the first decline with modern observational data. This saw a return to “normal” after a peak that had seen the greatest extents in 500 years.

Compared to the current decline on Kinnard (even without “enhancement”)? Well, even on Sesame Street they could tell you when one of these things was not like the other…

And then Daniel Bailey posted these two graphs:

Arctic Sea Ice Extent August 1938:

Post Carbon Institute:

In recent months we’ve seen a spate of assertions that peak oil is a worry of the past thanks to so-called “new technologies” that can tap massive amounts of previously inaccessible stores of “unconventional” oil. “Don’t worry, drive on,” we’re told.

We can fall for the oil industry hype and keep ourselves chained to a resource that’s depleting and comes with ever increasing economic and environmental costs, or we can recognize that the days of cheap and abundant oil (not to mention coal and natural gas) are over.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media and politicians on both sides of the aisle are parroting the hype, claiming — in Obama’s case — that unconventional oil can play a key role in an “all of the above” energy strategy and — in Romney’s — that increased production of tight oil and tar sands can make North America energy independent by the end of his second term.

Below, Post Carbon  Institute President Debbie Cook debates energy with an energy company front man.

False color MODIS image showing ice conditions August 21-27. Source: Environment Canada

Ice Extent as of 29 August. Source: NSIDC


As a commenter has pointed out, the sun is low enough now in the Arctic sky that insolation is no longer much of a factor in how much more ice melts. The primary driver at this point is residual heat that has been stored up over the summer, which will be considerable. The temp anomalies image above suggest there is a fair amount of warm water left.

Obama Says the C Word

August 30, 2012

Given the events of this summer, Iowa seems like as good a place as any to try this out.
If you want to hear more of it, might be good to let  him know.

From His August 28 Speech in Ames, Iowa:

And I know that’s a pretty heavy idea to lay on you on a Tuesday. (Laughter.) But it’s true. The decisions we make as a country on big issues like the economy and jobs and taxes and education and energy and war and climate change — all these decisions will directly affect your life in very personal ways. And I’ve got to say, this is something I’m acutely aware of when I make these decisions, because they’re decisions that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, as well.

Will this be a country that keeps moving away from foreign oil and towards renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and biofuels — (applause) — energy that makes our economy more secure, but also makes our planet more secure? (Applause.)

Governor Romney wants to pass a new $5 trillion tax cut targeted towards the wealthiest Americans. That’s not going to cut our debt. Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away. Denying climate change won’t make it stop. These things won’t make for a brighter future. They won’t make your future stronger.

Commenters here have pointed out a stunning feature made clear at the University of Bremen Sea Ice page.  With a little searching I found an animation that makes it even clearer.

The image above covers the last 30 days of melting. At the 5 second mark, you can see an enormous blob break free in the Chukchi Sea area, fly apart and disappear in the anomalously warm ocean water.

In the last few frames another huge mass in the central arctic seems about to pull away and dissolve in a similar process. I’m learning to read these images along with everyone else, but it would seem that whether it eventually melts or freezes in place is dependent on how much longer this process continues.


Compare this product of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to the National Snow and Ice Data Center below.  More perspective on the comparison with recent years.

A correspondent asks:

“Am I wrong to infer a relationship between degree of minimum extent and timing of minima?  It seems that larger ice volumes hit their minimum earlier in the year.  Could we thus expect this year’s ice extent minimum to be later still, perhaps even into October?”

No way I’m going to go out on a limb here. We are thru the looking glass at this point, but just eyeballing the graph (always dangerous) – it  would seem not out of the question.
Experts – I know you’re out there – feel free to weigh in.

Sea Ice Collapse Continues

August 29, 2012

Most recent Arctic Sea Ice Extent from National Snow and Ice Data Center.

One of the confusing issues that newbies run into is the distinction between the various measures of arctic ice,  including “area” vs “extent”. NSIDC addresses this in a FAQ.

What is the difference between sea ice area and extent?

Area and extent are different measures and give scientists slightly different information. Some organizations, including Cryosphere Today, report ice area; NSIDC primarily reports ice extent. Extent is always a larger number than area, and there are pros and cons associated with each method.

A simplified way to think of extent versus area is to imagine a slice of swiss cheese. Extent would be a measure of the edges of the slice of cheese and all of the space inside it. Area would be the measure of where there is cheese only, not including the holes. That is why if you compare extent and area in the same time period, extent is always bigger. A more precise explanation of extent versus area gets more complicated.

Extent defines a region as “ice-covered” or “not ice-covered.” For each satellite data cell, the cell is said to either have ice or to have no ice, based on a threshold. The most common threshold (and the one NSIDC uses) is 15 percent, meaning that if the data cell has greater than 15 percent ice concentration, the cell is considered ice covered; less than that and it is said to be ice free. Example: Let’s say you have three 25 kilometer (km) x 25 km (16 miles x 16 miles) grid cells covered by 16% ice, 2% ice, and 90% ice. Two of the three cells would be considered “ice covered,” or 100% ice. Multiply the grid cell area by 100% sea ice and you would get a total extent of 1,250 square km (482 square miles).

Area takes the percentages of sea ice within data cells and adds them up to report how much of the Arctic is covered by ice; area typically uses a threshold of 15%. So in the same example, with three 25 km x 25 km (16 miles x 16 miles) grid cells of 16% ice, 2% ice, and 90% ice, multiply the grid cell areas that are over the 15% threshold by the percent of sea ice in those grid cells, and add it up. You would have a total area of 662 square km (255.8 square miles).

Scientists at NSIDC report extent because they are cautious about summertime values of ice concentration and area taken from satellite sensors. To the sensor, surface melt appears to be open water rather than water on top of sea ice. So, while reliable for measuring area most of the year, the microwave sensor is prone to underestimating the actual ice concentration and area when the surface is melting. To account for that potential inaccuracy, NSIDC scientists rely primarily on extent when analyzing melt-season conditions and reporting them to the public. That said, analyzing ice area is still quite valuable. Given the right circumstances, background knowledge, and scientific information on current conditions, it can provide an excellent sense of how much ice there really is “on the ground.”