The Planetary Emergency

September 20, 2012

As you can see from the graphic above (click for larger image), the actual observations of  arctic sea ice melt are far outstripping the climate model predictions of just a few years ago, that the denial-sphere continues to call “alarmist”. Apparently, not alarming enough.

Will be listening in on an NSIDC press update later today, more later.


NEW YORK — Experts warned of a “planetary emergency” due to the unforeseen global consequences of Arctic ice melt, including methane gas released from permafrost regions currently under ice.

Columbia University and the environmental activist group Greenpeace held separate events Wednesday to discuss US government data showing that the Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest surface area since record-keeping began in 1979.

Satellite images show the Arctic ice cap melted to 1.32 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers) as of September 16, the predicted lowest point for the year, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“Between 1979 and 2012, we have a decline of 13 percent per decade in the sea ice, accelerating from six percent between 1979 and 2000,” said oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski with the US Naval Postgraduate School, speaking at the Greenpeace event.

“If this trend continues we will not have sea ice by the end of this decade,” said Maslowski.

While these figures are worse than the early estimates they come as no surprise to scientists, said NASA climate expert James Hansen, who also spoke at the Greenpeace event.

“We are in a planetary emergency,” said Hansen, decrying “the gap between what is understood by scientific community and what is known by the public.”

Scientists say the earth’s climate has been warming because carbon dioxide and other human-produced gases hinder the planet’s reflection of the sun’s heat back into space, creating a greenhouse effect.

Environmentalists warn that a string of recent extreme weather events around the globe, including deadly typhoons, devastating floods and severe droughts, show urgent action on emission cuts is needed.

The extreme weather include the drought and heat waves that struck the United States in the summer.

One consequence of the melt is the slow but continuous rise in the ocean level that threatens coastal areas.

Another result is the likely release of large amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas — trapped in the permafrost under Greenland’s ice cap, the remains of the region’s organic plant and animal life that were trapped in sediment and later covered by ice sheets in the last Ice Age.

Methane is 25 times more efficient at trapping solar heat than carbon dioxide, and the released gases could in turn add to global warming, which in turn would free up more locked-up carbon.


By the way, you’ll be hearing a lot of the “the ice is growing in Antarctica” crock over the coming days, and the answer of course, is that the tiny, statistically insignificant increase in Antarctic ice cover is being caused by a combination of wind changes due to the ozone hole, and has been anticipated in climate change predictions as a consequence of increased atmospheric moisture, as well. The change is, in any case, not enough to offset the collapse in the north.  Here is the most widely accepted graph of global sea ice area, from the University of Illinois Cryosphere Today.  I’ll more than cover this in an upcoming climate crock video.


9 Responses to “The Planetary Emergency”

  1. […] are even starting to call this a ‘planetary emergency‘.  If you don’t know why you should care, then please, at least TRUST the scientists […]

  2. kap55 Says:

    Wrong reason!

    Antarctic sea ice grows because at the latitude of the Southern Ocean (say, 60S to 70S), climate change causes more rainfall. Higher rainfall makes the surface layer of the ocean fresher, and fresher water freezes more easily than saltier water. Therefore the higher temps make ice harder to form while the fresher water makes ice easier to form. These two opposite effects are in a tug-of-war in the Southern Ocean, and climate models have correctly captured the not-much-overall-change we’ve actually been observing, with some models showing Antarctic sea ice growing a little, and some showing it shrinking a little.

    In another few decades, the increasing temps will definitely win out, according to all models.

  3. Jean Mcmahon Says:

    It is hardly made clear what the planetary Emergency is…altho I reply when asked”How are you?” with OK except I worry that the Arctic Sea Ice is in a death spiral,which leads to large methane leaks and dangerous levels of Greenhouse I Okla will soon be a huge Dust Bowl…otherwise I am great..

  4. Martin Lack Says:

    That is an awesome graph, Peter. Who owns the Copyright?

  5. omnologos Says:

    I looked for two days in the pages of the International Herald Tribune, but no mention of the “emergency”. Has the NYT gone denier?

  6. […] I am indebted to Peter Sinclair for his permission to reproduce the graph below.  It was embedded in his post on Climate Crock on the 20th September, a post he not unreasonably called The Planetary Emergency. […]

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