New Video: Permafrost – the Tipping Time Bomb

February 28, 2013

New for the Yale Forum.

I spent some time trying to figure out how to translate the impact of my interview with Charles Miller of NASA JPL.

Dr Miller is lead scientist of NASA’s CARVE mission, (covered below in a Weather Channel spot, encouraging sign of better coverage for climate issues in that venue)..

CARVE stands for Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment, and it consists of an ongoing series of flights over permafrost regions in the remote Alaskan arctic, to measure at low altitude, and high resolution the offgassing of CO2 and methane from decaying permafrost.

When I spoke to him at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in December, what was most striking were the even, calm, measured tones of his responses in discussing some of the most intense and alarming information imaginable about a critical climate feedback.

The story came together with last week’s publication of new data that helps zero in on exactly at what temperature regions of continuous permafrost will begin to break down.

Scientific American:

Geoscientist Anton Vaks of the University of Oxford led an international team of experts—including the Arabica Caving Club in Irkutsk—in sampling the spindly cave growths known as stalagmites and stalactites across Siberia and down into the Gobi Desert of China. Taking samples of such speleothems from six caves, the researchers then reconstructed the last roughly 500,000 years of climate via the decay of radioactive particles in the stone. When the ground is frozen above a cave no water seeps into it, making such formations “relicts from warmer periods before permafrost formed,” the researchers wrote in a study published online in Science on 21 February.

The details of the study reveal that conditions were warm enough even in Siberia for these mineral deposits to form roughly 400,000 years ago, when the global average temperature was 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than present. It also suggests that there was no permafrost in the Lena River region at that time, because enough water seeped into the northernmost cave to enable roughly eight centimeters of growth in the formations.

I spoke to Dr. Vaks by Skype, and included a brief clip from that in the video above. I’ll be editing, cleaning up and posting the extended interview soon.

For now, check out the video above. I apologize in advance if you don’t sleep well tonight.


41 Responses to “New Video: Permafrost – the Tipping Time Bomb”

  1. Just in case you haven’t got it yet, here’s a brief summing up which I hope you allow you all to sleep well:

    It’s not easy being green these days, especially if you’re a die-hard doomsayer of the global warming persuasion. Arctic ice has made a comeback, advancing so rapidly that the previous decade saw less ice at this time of the year than exists today. And previously balmy Arctic temperatures just nose-dived, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute, which has tracked Arctic temperatures since 1958.

    Alarmists shudder when looking south, too, at the stats from Antarctica. There the sea ice extent started growing early this year, and the ice cover remains stubbornly above average. All told, the global sea ice — including both polar caps — now exceeds the average recorded since 1979, when satellites began their measurements.

    Disasters are another disaster for the doomsayers, as documented in an October article by University of Colorado-Boulder Prof. Robert Pielke Jr., one of the world’s foremost experts in disasters and climate change. “Flooding has not increased over the past century, nor have landfalling hurricanes,” he reported. “Remarkably, the U.S. is currently experiencing the longest-ever recorded period with no strikes of a Category 3 or stronger hurricane.”

    Pielke went on to note that the U.S. has seen a decline in drought over the past century, and that “Over the past six decades, tornado damage has declined after accounting for development that has put more property into harm’s way.” Similar conclusions apply to typhoons in China, bushfires in Australia, and windstorms in Europe. High-profile weather events have always and will always be with us; they just haven’t been as fateful of late. Moreover, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier last year agreed that long-term climate change can’t be blamed for damage from extreme events.

    The Holy Grail of proof to most doomsayers, of course, is the temperature, which global warming models insisted would rise in lock-step with increases in carbon dioxide. When the temperatures started to plateau in the late 1990s, doomsayers scoffed at the skeptics who noted that the models failed, taking comfort from the global warming leadership who explained every which way that the skeptics were torturing the statistics to falsely show warming had stopped. Now the leadership itself — the U.K.’s Met Office, NASA’s Jim Hansen, and the IPCC’s Rajendra Pachauri — all admit to temperatures having reached a standstill for the better part of two decades. The lowly global warming believer is left with little but the promises from their leaders that, sooner or later, those temperatures will rise again.

    In perhaps the cruelest blow of all, the believers learned just this week — in a study released by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at Barack Obama’s University of Chicago no less — that the skeptics haven’t been marginalized as science-denying ignoramuses all these years. To the contrary, unbeknownst to the doomsayers, they themselves have been on the margins of society in their belief that the global warming threat to the planet is the most consequential issue of our times, if not all times.

    As documented in painful detail in Public Attitudes towards Climate Change & Other Environmental Issues across Time and Countries, 1993-2010, a 17-year study of attitudes conducted by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) in 33 countries, most people in all countries rank global warming way down their list of concerns. In Norway, just 4% considered global warming to be the country’s most important issue — and Norwegians were the most concerned of all of the citizens studied. In Canada, also high up the list, the figure was just 3%; in Great Britain less than 1% and in the U.S. the concern and was less than one half of 1%.

    • rayduray Says:


      Such a wonderful display of public relations as a form of lying. My hat’s off to you for such a prime example of disingenuousness, grotesque distortion and disinformation.

      Your obstinate refusal to have anything to do with reality is noted. Your purpose here however remains obscure.

      Do you intend to amuse yourself as a troll? I you a schoolboy working on an assignment for a creative writing class? Are you boning up for applying for work as government psyop shop or an advertising agency? I can hardly make sense of what would motivate you to be such a blatant liar and ridiculous distortionist. And I really don’t care for an answer. I suspect it would be just another lie.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Claiming a recovery in arctic ice is just plain delusional. Can’t help with that. Medication
      might be in order.

      as far the
      “Antarctic Ice is increasing” crock — dealt with here

      see also

    • ontspan Says:

      We all remember the last time that Arctic sea ice recovered and alarmism was dead. In early 2012 when sea ice extent barely reached average for a few days. Then came summer 2012: record melt. Now sea ice extent is a tad bit above extent of the previous few years and, you guessed it, climate deniers claim victory yet again.

      I bet that even when the Arctic is seasonally ice free on a yearly basis deniers still claim victory at the end of winter when extent has covered the larger part of the Arctic ocean. Such is the nature of the beast.

  2. None of the above, merely a concern citizen, in this case concerned that many people are not getting the sleep they need to function well due to unnecssary worry and stress put about regarding the climate.

    I also have time on my hands at the moment to offer advice and support to others due to a short period of illness. Don’t worry will be soon fixed and back at work so I won’t be bothering your little heads by raising objections to your doomladen view of the world.

    Please also note that the definition of a liar is not one who holds a different opinion to oneself. However believing that no contrary opinion can possible exist is self-delusion of the highest order.

    • ahaveland Says:

      Thanks for your concern, but not for your condescension.
      You realize all your arguments can be used reciprocally against yourself?

      People see different parts of the same world through different filters with varying degrees of opacity – some prefer to delude themselves because overturning long-held beliefs whether true or not can be shattering in the extreme – what they don’t know can’t hurt them. Some people don’t operate like that and have developed a world view based on experiential observations about how the world works – the good, the bad and the ugly.

      Our drive to consume, conquer, accumulate and reproduce worked well enough to build our technology and civilization, but now those instincts are a liability need to be reprogrammed as limits are being reached. This is not something that humans have evolved in their genetic inventory, though some of us have the intelligence to recognize it and try to cater for it, in the face of great resistance by the amoebic masses, intent on destroying themselves. Can humanity be so collectively stupid?

      If we are to survive reaching the walls of our lonely pale blue Petri dish, trapped in an endless orbit to nowhere in a vast expanse of nothing, then we must adapt collectively, and override some incompatible traits, such as greed and selfishness. Naturally, those that possess those traits and cannot see the bigger picture are going to resist and those that have great wealth will use that wealth to spread disinformation in order to preserve their existence at the expense of everyone and everything else, even risking sacrificing the habitability of this planet in the process.
      This war between deniers and preservationists is entirely proceeding as expected, given the state we are in.

      Your denial based on the information you have been fed is natural and understandable, but the real world has no regard for our opinions and time really is running out, based on all the available evidence.
      We have undeniably caused changes in our Earth’s thin gaseous skin and depleted biodiversity that threaten our near-term well-being and longer-term survival.

      There is a bigger picture and survival is *not* compulsory.

  3. rayduray Says:

    Re: “Please also note that the definition of a liar is not one who holds a different opinion to oneself. ”

    No. The definition of a liar is someone who would willfully disregard the scientific record, distorting the facts in order to achieve an ideological goal.

    You did exactly this when you cherry-picked the date of 1997 as a starting point for a discussion of Arctic ice. You lied.

    The satellite record goes back to 1979 and it could not be more clear. In summer, half the ice area and 80% of the ice volume has disappeared in the Arctic between 1979-1984 and the average between 2007 and 2012.

    You are simply making stuff up, Edwin. And that’s not what adults do unless they are liars. So if you are kid, I forgive you and ask you to seek out better adult guidance. And if you are an adult, I would ask you to refrain from lying to us. Thanks for you consideration.

  4. rayduray Says:

    Well alright then. I guess we won’t expect any Canadian scientists to be chiming in on this topic. Or so says Rick Mercer:

  5. Don’t worry will be soon fixed and back at work so I won’t be bothering your little heads by raising objections to your doomladen view of the world.

    Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, oh masterful holder of a degree from one of the five best universities on the planet. We’ll be sending your expert analyses along to actual climate scientists, so you don’t have to. I’m sure your insights will be true revelations and much appreciated. Ta-ta!

  6. Oh, and in regard to Roger Pielke, Jr, the irony is delicious.

    Mr Crockford, who in all seriousness and claimed objectivity, advises us that:

    This entire site is a joke, a sick joke. It runs like this, lets make up the scarriest story we can and then watch and laugh as the comments come in and everyone get into a real panic. None of it is true it just there to distract you from what’s really going on in the country.

    cites, as an objective and non paranoid source, Roger Pielke, Jr. Who appears to have his own problems with psychopathy:

    • rayduray Says:

      OMG! Doesn’t Junior get any Senior supervision at all?

      This is too funny. Hilarious, in fact.

      “Our adversaries are a certifiably lunatic fringe.” Hunter S. Thompson

  7. jpgreenword Says:

    I was particularly concerned by the 1.5 degrees Celsius. Yes, we are currently at +0.8, but are we not guaranteed a few more tenths even if we stop emitting tomorrow?

    From what I’ve understood, +0.8 is from emissions up until (approximately) the 1970’s. We are still not “feeling” the impacts of the emissions since then.

    By the way, I’ve posted your video on my blog. Thank you for sharing it in the first place.

  8. […] week, the web site Climate Denial Crock of the Week posted a very important video (which I’ve embedded below) about the state of our […]

  9. […] levels have gone into terminal decline, while permafrost has become decidedly less permanent as vast swathes of the tundra literally rot in front of our eyes. Closer to home the last few years have seen extreme rainfall events  tearing up the east coast of […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: