Dr. Jason Box, speaking to me via Skype from Copenhagen, where he is a scientist with the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
I asked him about recent findings that show Greenland’s ice to be even more vulnerable than we thought. The research came from the same team that has published new dire warnings on the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Chris Mooney, interviewing Richard Alley in Mother Jones:

And it gets even worse: West Antarctica isn’t the only worry. To hear Alley tell it, it’s just that West Antarctica is pretty much lost to us already. Next up is a place that we might still be able to save, but that we’re currently playing an insane game of roulette with: Greenland.

It contains much more water than West Antarctica: about 23 feet of global sea level rise. That’s equivalent, on a worldwide scale, to the storm surge caused by Supertyphoon Haiyanwhen it struck the Philippines last year.

And here again, the news isn’t good. Recently published research finds that much more of the Greenland Ice Sheet than previously believed is exposed, from beneath, to the ocean. Basically, the new science amounts to a topographical remapping exercise—for terrain that is as much as three miles below a vast sheet of ice. And it turns out that the canyons beneath Greenland’s glaciers are deeper than scientists previously thought, and in some cases, well below sea level. This means, in turn, that more of the ice sheet is potentially exposed to warming seas—similar to the ice sheet of West Antarctica.

Illustration showing newly revealed topography of subsealevel glacial channels in Greenland, from the new Nature Geoscience paper by Morlighem, Rignot et al Note below sea level “bowl” in the interior.

“It doesn’t yet say, ‘Greenland is about to fall into the ocean, run for the hills,'” Alley says, “but it does make Greenland look a little bit more vulnerable than we thought.”

But not yet sacrificed. Not yet gone. For Alley, then, the true upshot of the West Antarctica news is this: It makes saving Greenland absolutely essential. Ten feet of sea level rise will be incredibly painful to adapt to already, but 33 feet from the combined loss of West Antarctica and Greenland? It’s simply inconceivable. There is no such thing as adapting to that.

Essentially, then, we need an all out global push to stop global warming and save Greenland—and thus, the places where we all live.

Alley puts it like this: “If we’ve committed to 3.3 meters from West Antarctica, we haven’t committed to losing Greenland, we haven’t committed to losing most of East Antarctica. Those are still out there for us. And if anything, this new news just makes our decisions more important, and more powerful.”

Dr. Box and I will be joining an international team on the Greenland Ice this summer, in a new Dark Snow Project initiative. As Dr. Alley points out, the stakes have never been higher for understanding the key drivers of Greenland melt.  If you have not contributed to Dark Snow yet, please consider a tax deductible gift now.



It’s said he liked to conduct research on the Antarctic glaciers while nude. I like hard core types.

John Mercer was a glaciologist at Ohio State University, considered eccentric by his colleagues not so much for his dress, as for his predictions of near term collapse of Antarctic ice shelves due to climate change.  The warning, published in 1978, has now been borne out, with recent publication of evidence that major ice streams on the West Antarctic’s “soft underbelly” have reached “a point of no return“. This will be the topic of my new video to be uploaded next week, one of the more terrifying pieces I have had to make.

Elsewhere on this page, see video of Dr. Jason Box, formerly a professor in the same OSU program where Mercer worked, on further implications of the new research for Greenland. (Dr. Box is now at the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland)


The new finding appears to be the fulfillment of a prediction made in 1978 by an eminent glaciologist, John H. Mercer of the Ohio State University. He outlined the vulnerable nature of the West Antarctic ice sheet and warnedthat the rapid human-driven release of greenhouse gases posed “a threat of disaster.” He was assailed at the time, but in recent years, scientists have been watching with growing concern as events have unfolded in much the way Dr. Mercer predicted. (He died in 1987.)

Toledo Blade:

COLUMBUS — Thirty-six years after catching flak for one of the most bold and dire predictions about global warming, former Ohio State University glaciologist John H. Mercer is being hailed as a visionary.

Mr. Mercer was hardly the first to sound an alarm about greenhouse gases: Scientists were well on their way by the late 1950s toward connecting mankind’s burning of fossil fuels to Earth’s changing climate.

But Mr. Mercer made a groundbreaking contribution with a peer-reviewed research paper about West Antarctica’s instability he got published on Jan. 26, 1978, in the scientific journal Nature.

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When my late Father, then 75 years old, retired – many years ago, he decided to ride his bicycle from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine, and did so.
One thing that amazed him was the number of people along the way who threw things at him from their vehicles.

Is bike-ism like racism?  Are bicyclists in the vanguard of the culture war? What makes some people have some kind of irrational hatred for anyone on a human powered vehicle?

What do you imagine the cross over is between climate denial and bicycle-rage? Watch the video. I’ll leave it to you.

Raw Story:

An Alabama man who posted videos of himself complaining about bicyclists has been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment.

In the videos, Keith Maddox describes what it’s like sharing the road with bicyclists as he drives to work.

“See what I was talking about?” he says in a video posted on May 21, 2014. “Look there! Look right there. I ought to run him in the ditch. Ride your little bicycle!” he yells as he passes the bicyclist.

“You piece of crap! I oughta run him in the ditch is what I shoulda done! I shoulda put him in the ditch.”

In another video, he passes a bicyclist and says, “Lord have mercy, I’m gonna hurt one of them one of these days. Can’t help myself, I’m gonna do it.”

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Amanda became the strongest May eastern Pacific hurricane on record Sunday morning a peak winds approached that of a Category 5 hurricane.

Amanda’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 155 mph and its central pressure dropped to 932 millibars by 11 a.m. PDT Sunday, meaning Amanda was very powerful Category 4 hurricane.

Although Amanda has weakened some from its peak strength, sustained winds remain at Category 4 strength as the storm moves slowly northward over the eastern Pacific.

Adolph from 2001 originally held the distinction of strongest May hurricane in the basin. At the peak of Adolph’s intensity, the central pressure bottomed out at 940 millibars and winds were nearly 145 mph.

Below, reposting part 1 of my recent interview with Kevin Trenberth – at about 4:30 begins to discuss hurricanes in eastern pacific, but good contextual info on anomalous warmth as El Nino builds.

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Maher on Sajak

May 25, 2014

The real debate in atmospheric science is, of course, not whether man-caused climate change is happening, but exactly how that change is playing out – affecting atmospheric circulation, and thereby, our weather.

I’ve covered this debate from early on by interviewing proponents of two seemingly opposing viewpoints, one, made famous by Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers, is that changes in Arctic ice cover may be breaking down the temperature gradient between north and south, and thereby affecting the flow of the northern hemisphere jet stream – causing weather to get “stuck”, like this past winter’s “Ridiculously Resillient Ridge”, which brought warmth and rain to the arctic while pouring frigid arctic air onto eastern north America.

Conversely, Dr. Kevin Trenberth maintains the heat flux in polar regions is not large enough to drive changes on the scale which we are observing. The answer, he feels, is in the tropics.

Tim Palmer of Oxford University, writing in the new issue of Science, adds a new puzzle piece that might help square the circle.

Science (paywalled):

Given this overall decreasing tendency in cold winters, it seems impossible to argue that the record-breaking snowy winter in the Midwest could be connected to climate change. However, there is a plausible link. To understand this link we must consider the atmospheric circulation patterns that were associated with this winter and ask whether there is evidence that climate change might have increased the likelihood of these patterns. Large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns are controlled by the position of the jet stream. The Northern Hemisphere jet stream flows from west to east at mid- latitudes; it deviates from a line of latitude through a series of ripples called Rossby waves. Regions above which the jet stream is flowing from the north are likely to expe- rience cold weather. Conversely, in regions above which it flows from the south, the weather is likely to be relatively warm. The larger the amplitude of the Rossby waves, the more anomalous the weather is likely to be at the surface.

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Human beings, like it or not, process facts and reality not as data, but as story. Climate deniers have been good at the over-simplification and pounding repetition it takes to make a story stick.

Making the facts of climate change a compelling story is one of the greatest challenges of human history.

Cassandra Willyard in Last Word on Nothing:

The most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) doesn’t pull any punches. The globe continues to warm, ice continues to melt at an alarming pace, and the seas continue to rise. Climate change isn’t some distant dilemma. It’s already happening. The science is solid, and the problem is urgent. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri at a news conference in March.

Yet most Americans don’t seem to be all that concerned. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 40% cited climate change as a major threat to the US. And even fewer — roughly a third – listed global warming as a top priority for Congress and the White House.

So what gives? Why aren’t people getting the message? Are we* — the science journalists –delivering it wrong? Perhaps we need more stories, and better storytellers.

“Why don’t you do something about climate change?” I asked my husband, Soren Wheeler. He’s the senior producer of Radiolab, a crazy popular science program that tells some of the most compelling stories on the airwaves.

“Because,” he said, “climate change is the anti-story.”

Naturally, I asked him to explain. Here is an edited version of the conversation that ensued over burgers and beers**.


CW: You told me climate change is the anti-story. What did you mean by that?

SW: Are you sure I said exactly that?

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