Regular readers and viewers will have seen all of these, – so apologies to those – but at this moment, with many more viewers paying attention, there is no substitute for repetition.
We are all flooded with a sea of information, and the mission of this series is to provide context and narrative, especially at moments of critical interest.

This is from the Yale Series, “This is Not Cool”, a companion to the Climate Crocks series.

Here are the Climate Crocks Sea ice videos from the last 2 years. Again, apologies, but I invite new viewers to check these still-very-informative videos out for background.

2010 part one:

2010 part two:

2011:

NASA’s Tom Wagner on 2011 Sea Ice:

Arctic Ice: Why it Matters

August 29, 2012

The graph shows IPCC model runs projecting arctic sea ice loss into the future. The red is actual observations. Far from being “alarmist”, the IPCC has actually been far to conservative on this issue, leaving scientists scrambling to catch up with reality.
Source: Stroeve et al, NSIDC

Washington Post:

Over the past three decades, the summer Arctic sea ice extent has declined roughly 40 percent, and the ice has lost significant volume, according to data from the Polar Science Center. Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, told the Guardianlast year: “The extent is going down, but it is also thinning… There will be ups and downs, but we are on track to see an ice-free summer by 2030.”

A new study in this month’s Environmental Research Letters concludes that between 70 and 95 percent of the Arctic melt since 1979 has been caused by human activity. Man-made global warming has rapidly heated up the Arctic — the region has been warming about twice as fast as the global average. (See here for a good explanation of why.) What’s more, soot and other pollutants from smokestacks in Europe and Asia have traveled up to the Arctic. When those dark particles settle onto the snow and ice, they absorb sunlight and start sizzling.

Natural variability still plays a small role, however. This year, a large storm in August may have helped break up the sea ice and caused it to melt even more quickly. But NSIDC scientists say the long-term warming trend was the main driver — the slushy ice has become even more vulnerable to weather outbursts.

 In the past, scientists have underestimated the pace at which Arctic sea ice would disappear. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) figured we wouldn’t see ice-free summers in the Arctic until the end of the century or so. But later observations suggested that sea-ice extent is shrinking far more quickly than the IPCC had forecast.

It appears that earlier climate models underestimated certain “feedback” effects. As Arctic sea ice melts, more and more of the ocean is exposed to sunlight. Since the darker ocean surface absorbs more sunlight than the bright ice, this warms the region even further. What’s more, a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Letters found that IPCC models had low-balled the rate at which melted ice drifts off, further accelerating the collapse. That explains why some scientists have revised their forecasts, saying ice-free summers could come 40 or 50 years ahead of schedule.

Melting Arctic sea ice won’t, by itself, raise global ocean levels. But a warmer Arctic will cause Greenland’s ice sheet to melt — and that matters. Ice that’s floating in the ocean can’t raise sea levels when it melts, because the ice was already displacing its own volume. But as the exposed ocean absorbs more sunlight, the region will keep heating up. And that’s important when it comes to the vast ice sheet covering Greenland.

Greenland’s ice sheet is 1.9 miles thick and contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by about 25 feet (7.5 meters) all told. Back in 2007, the IPCC consensus was that Greenland’s ice sheet would remain fairly stable this century and wouldn’t contribute much to sea level rise. But more recent evidence suggests that this prediction is out of date. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet appears to be accelerating of late, losing about four times as much mass last year as it did a decade ago. That’s partly due to warmer air. And it’s partly driven by rising ocean temperatures, as warmer water chews away at the edges of the ice sheet.

As a result, a recent study by the U.S. Jet Propulsion Laboratory predicted that sea levels are on pace to rise at least a foot by 2050, and possibly three feet by century’s end. (Longer-term forecasts depend on how rapidly Antarctica’s own massive ice sheets deteriorate.)

The changing Arctic could lead to more extreme summers and winters in the United States and Europe. It’s no shock that global warming will make summers even hotter. But could it also make winters colder? Perhaps. For that, we can thank the Arctic. As Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers, has been exploring, the amplified warming in the Arctic might well be contributing to extreme weather.

Why is that? First, the west-to-east jet stream appears to be slowing down, which allows weather patterns to persist in certain areas for longer. This could help account for the onslaught of snowstorms in the United States and Europe in 2009 and 2010, as well as prolonged heat waves like the one that hit Moscow in 2010. Arctic amplification can also increase the “waviness” of the jet stream surrounding the polar region. That could allow more frequent blasts of cold Arctic air to escape down into North America or Europe, leading to frigid winters.

The Arctic hasn’t yet reached the “point of no return,” but the world would have to cut emissions very quickly to stabilize the sea ice. One 2010 study in Nature found that it was still possible to halt the shrinking of Arctic sea ice. A more recentstudy in Science, looking at 10,000 years of Arctic melt, also concluded that we’re not yet at a “tipping point,” where the collapse in sea ice becomes inevitable. “The good news,” said Sven Funder, a co-author of the Science study, “is that even with a reduction to less than 50% of the current amount of sea ice the ice will not reach a point of no return.”

And yet, as climate blogger Joe Romm explained after the Nature study came out, we may have reached a practical point of no return. The Nature authors estimated that the world would have to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 percent rapidly and keep cutting thereafter to avert the inexorable collapse of summer sea-ice. That’s unlikely. A (shrinking) number of climate scientists still think the world can cut emissions significantly and avert a 2°C rise in temperature. Yet the prognosis for Arctic sea ice looks a bit grimmer.

Is the plunge still accelerating?

NYTimes:

The amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record, a confirmation of the drastic warming in the region and a likely harbinger of larger changes to come.

Satellites tracking the extent of the sea ice found over the weekend that it covered about 1.58 million square miles, or less than 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s surface, scientists said. That is only slightly below the previous record low, set in 2007, but with weeks still to go in the summer melting season, it is clear that the record will be beaten by a wide margin.

Australian Broadcasting Company:

According to research by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), based at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the decline in summer Arctic sea ice “is considered a strong signal of long-term climate warming”.

The most recent analysis was partially supported by NASA.

Arctic sea ice fell to 4.10 million square kilometres, some 70,000 square kilometres less than the earlier record charted on September 18, 2007, says the NSIDC.

Scientists say the record was all the more striking as 2007 had near perfect climate patterns for melting ice, but that the weather this year was unremarkable other than a storm in early August.

“I think, unfortunately, this is an example that points more to the worst-case scenario side of things,” says Professor Michael E. Mann, of Penn State University, who was a lead author of a major UN report in 2001 on climate change.

“There are a number of areas where in fact climate change seems to be proceeding faster and with a greater magnitude than what the models predicted.”

Telegraph: 

The Arctic region is now losing about 155,000 square kilometres (60,000 square miles) of ice annually, the equivalent of a US state every two years, said Walt Meier, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

“It used to be the Arctic ice cover was a kind of big block of ice. It would melt a little bit from the edges but it was pretty solid,” Meier told reporters on a conference call.

“Now it’s like crushed ice,” he said. “At least parts of the Arctic have become like a giant slushie, and that’s a lot easier to melt and melt more quickly.”

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

BBC:

Joey Comiso, senior research scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said this year’s ice retreat was caused by previous warm years reducing the amount of perennial ice – which is more resistant to melting. It’s created a self-reinforcing trend.

“Unlike 2007, temperatures were not unusually warm in the Arctic this summer. [But] we are losing the thick component of the ice cover,” he said. “And if you lose [that], the ice in the summer becomes very vulnerable.”

Walt Meier, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center that collaborates in the measurements, said: “In the context of what’s happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it’s an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing.”

Professor Peter Wadhams, from Cambridge University, told BBC News: “A number of scientists who have actually been working with sea ice measurement had predicted some years ago that the retreat would accelerate and that the summer Arctic would become ice-free by 2015 or 2016.

“I was one of those scientists – and of course bore my share of ridicule for daring to make such an alarmist prediction.”

But Prof Wadhams said the prediction was now coming true, and the ice had become so thin that it would inevitably disappear.

“Measurements from submarines have shown that it has lost at least 40% of its thickness since the 1980s, and if you consider the shrinkage as well it means that the summer ice volume is now only 30% of what it was in the 1980s,” he added.

At this point all we can do is watch, the ice is going to do what its going to do.  I’ll try to keep some of the most important graphs posted here and keep up with the most important milestones.  For today, what’s stunning to most observers is that we appear to have smashed thru the 4 million square kilometer barrier – The latest value : 3,947,500 km2  according to the Japan Aerospace (JAXA) group.  The US NSIDC is somewhere close to that estimate.

For those just beginning to pay attention to the story of ice, NSIDC has a FAQ , and some good primers,  here and here.

I won’t say “get popcorn”, because frankly, I’ve lost my appetite.

National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Arctic sea ice appears to have broken the 2007 record daily extent and is now the lowest in the satellite era. With two to three more weeks left in the melt season, sea ice continues to track below 2007 daily extents.

Please note that this is not an announcement of the sea ice minimum extent for 2012. NSIDC will release numbers for the 2012 daily minimum extent when it occurs. A full analysis of the melt season will be published in early October, once monthly data are available for September.

Arctic sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).

Including this year, the six lowest ice extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last six years (2007 to 2012).

Hurricane Isaac vs the Republicans is rising on the charts – but its really a footnote compared to the big story. How long before the major media turn cameras on the jaw-dropping drama that’s had scientists transfixed for the last 3 weeks?

Arctic Sea Ice Blog:

I apologize for having provided so little analysis lately, but things are moving so fast that analysis can’t keep up. Now I know what an IPCC regional model for the Arctic must feel like. 😉

Basically, I’m at a loss for words, and not just because my jaw has dropped and won’t go back up as long as I’m looking at the graphs. I’m also at a loss – and I have already said it a couple of times this year – because I just don’t know what to expect any longer. I had a very steep learning curve in the past two years. We all did. But it feels as if everything I’ve learned has become obsolete. As if you’ve learned to play the guitar a bit in two years’ time, and then all of a sudden have to play a xylophone. Will trend lines go even lower, or will the remaining ice pack with its edges so close to the North Pole start to freeze up?

ClimateCodeRed:

UPDATE 27 AUGUST: Sunday’s data confirms that the previous sea-ice extent minimum of 24 September 2007 was broken last Friday, 24 August 2012. What is also stunning are sea-ice daily extent figures averaging ice loss of more than 100,000 square kilometres per day for the last four days. This suggest melt is accelerating very late in the melt season in a pattern that has never before been observed. The Arctic this year is heading into new territory and it looks like 2012 may in retrospect be seen as the year when a new melt regime took hold.
The ice extent is about to drop below 4 million square kilometres for the first time in the satellite record, and the Arctic has shed almost half a million square kilometres of sea-ice in last five days! With three weeks of the melt season still to go, it’s not hard to see extent dropping another half a million square kilometres (or more!) to 3.5 million square kilometres. (In previous big melt years of 2007 and 2011, around half a million square kilometres was lost after 26 August.)
This is starting to make the second graph (below) looking reasonable, and those scientists and models which have been suggesting an sea-ice-free summer Arctic within a decade to be on the money.

Read the rest of this entry »

CNN Money

While the carbon tax plan is drawing attention now, the idea itself is not new in conservative circles.

For example, a 2007 paper published by the American Enterprise Institute, an influential conservative group, argued that a carbon tax would be preferable to other ways of reducing greenhouse gases such as mandatory emission limits.

One of the authors was Kevin Hassett, now an adviser to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A spokesman for Hassett said he was unavailable for comment. A Romney campaign spokeswoman said the candidate does not support such a tax, saying it would push jobs overseas.

Bloomberg:

It’s only responsible to force a shift away from fossil fuels by enacting a carbon tax. The U.S., which accounts for about 19 percent of global emissions today, should take the lead in doing so as part of broader tax reform.

The benefits of such a tax are clear: It would raise immediate revenue for a strapped nation, curtail the use of fossil fuels and, as a result, drastically lower emissions. A carbon tax of $15 a ton that rises at 4 percent above inflation annually would raise $310 billion by 2050 and cut emissions 34 percent (or 2.5 billion metric tons), according to a recent report by theBrookings Institution. The biggest hit would come from gas prices, which would initially rise by about 13 cents a gallon and increase gradually from there, according to other estimates.

To avoid one of the biggest downsides of a carbon tax — slower economic growth — as much as 50 percent of the revenue should be used to lower corporate tax rates for all companies. Such an offset could boost economic output by giving business a bigger incentive to invest and hire, research by Brookings and others shows. The remaining revenue should be used to help reduce the federal deficit and make the tax code more progressive, easing some of the bite from higher electricity and gas prices.

Robert Frank in the NYTimes:

The good news is that we could insulate ourselves from catastrophic risk at relatively modest cost by enacting a steep carbon tax. Early studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that a carbon tax of up to $80 per metric ton of emissions — a tax that might raise gasoline prices by 70 cents a gallon — would eventually result in climate stability. But because recent estimates about global warming have become more pessimistic, stabilization may require a much higher tax. How hard would it be to live with a tax of, say, $300 a ton?

If such a tax were phased in, the prices of goods would rise gradually in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide their production or use entailed. The price of gasoline, for example, would slowly rise by somewhat less than $3 a gallon. Motorists in many countries already pay that much more than Americans do, and they seem to have adapted by driving substantially more efficient vehicles.

A carbon tax would also serve two other goals. First, it would help balance future budgets. Tens of millions of Americans are set to retire in the next decades, and, as a result, many budget experts agree that federal budgets simply can’t be balanced with spending cuts alone. We’ll also need substantial additional revenue, most of which could be generated by a carbon tax.

If new taxes are unavoidable, why not adopt ones that not only help balance the budget but also help make the economy more efficient? By reducing harmful emissions, a carbon tax fits that description.

A second benefit would occur if a carbon tax were approved today but phased in gradually, only after the economy had returned to full employment. High unemployment persists in part because businesses, sitting on mountains of cash, aren’t investing it because their current capacity already lets them produce more than people want to buy. News that a carbon tax was coming would create a stampede to develop energy-saving technologies. Hundreds of billions of dollars of private investment might be unleashed without adding a cent to the budget deficit.

SOME people argue that a carbon tax would do little good unless it were also adopted by China and other big polluters. It’s a fair point. But access to the American market is a potent bargaining chip. The United States could seek approval to tax imported goods in proportion to their carbon dioxide emissions if exporting countries failed to enact carbon taxes at home.

Eliot Spitzer in Slate:

The pace of global warming is accelerating and the scale of the impact is devastating. The time for action is limited—we are approaching a tipping point beyond which the opportunity to reverse the damage of CO2 emissions will disappear.

And what are we talking about in our presidential campaign? Obamaloney and Romney Hood. Silliness has taken over, and the capacity to raise tough issues has dissipated if not gone entirely. Climate change appears to have fallen off the political agenda.

Yet there is an answer for either candidate courageous enough to take the first step. This answer is steeped in conservative economics: Companies that pollute should be taxed so that a product’s cost to society is reflected in the price of that product. Milton Friedman and Richard Posner agree on this point!

The idea, proposed by Hansen, is simple: a fee on carbon emissions collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to legal residents on a per capita basis. It is simple, would move us away from carbon-based fuels, would cost most consumers nothing, and would stimulate innovation in the clean-energy sector. Right now, in contrast, we are subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year—while the greatest minds in science agree that we are destroying our planet.

It is not a matter of ideology to say that this makes no sense. It is a matter of simple, conservative economics. Is it too much to ask our candidates that in the hot, dog days of August, they trade ideas, not ad hominem attacks?

 

 

Neil Armstrong

August 26, 2012

“..and other living things.” I might add.

Science denial is the ultimate Child Abuse – and climate denial is at the top of the list.

Chris Mathews is sometimes tone deaf, and a bit full of himself, so I certainly don’t hang on his words, but this deserves repeating no matter who says it.

Combine the catchiest tune of this summer, or maybe any summer, and a foreign policy black hellhole of hopeless violence and futility.
Last thing in the world I’m going to do is question how our guys in extreme circumstances blow off steam and boost morale. Whatever it takes, blessings on all of them, and more power to them.

Still, this rapidly-gone-viral vid is exuberantly, unabashedly  jarring, aberrant and strange.