Mike MacCracken: Can we Save the Arctic?

January 24, 2020

Mike MacCracken has been thinking deeply about climate longer than just about anyone alive.
In the course of researching my recent piece on the Australian fires, I came across some clips from an interview I did with Mike in 2012. I’ll be posting some in coming days.

Above, Dr. MacCracken muses about novel approaches to keeping the arctic cool while we try to lower or reverse emissions in the rest of the world, in the hope of averting the worst impacts of polar amplification.
Below, maybe the most interesting idea on best use of icebreakers for mini-geo-engineering.

17 Responses to “Mike MacCracken: Can we Save the Arctic?”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    Now known as “solar climate interventions”, it doesn’t sound quite so scary.
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614991/the-us-government-will-begin-to-fund-geoengineering-research/

    • dumboldguy Says:

      FOUR whole million dollars? WOW!

      Want to bet that it was wheedled into the appropriations bill by some lobbyist for a “venture capitalist-entrepreneur-vulture” that wants to use the research to come up with a get-rich scheme? Solar Roadway Lives!

  2. indy222 Says:

    Very interesting. I’d not heard that idea before. It’s a good one on the criteria for safety and efficacy which I teach for my students.

    Safety Criterion #1: Cause no hysteresis. Take the Earth System back along the approximately same trajectory as got us to this bad place. Don’t fly off into unprecedented new Earth states in the service of profits.

    Safety Criterion #2: Leave the surface of the Earth, where most life lives, in as pristine and untouched from it’s primal state as possible. The primal state of the Arctic Ocean was to have permanent ice cover with just a little thaw around the edges in summer.

    There’s not many ideas out there which satisfy both of these criteria. One which does, is Desch (2017) idea for wind-powered pumps in the A.O. to bring up sub-ice water to the ice surface, to thicken winter ice. It’s very much along the same lines here, and I endorse.

  3. grindupbaker Says:

    The breaking of sea ice in autumn to cool the Arctic Ocean will alter northern hemisphere air circulation though. I assume scientists would be able to figure out the pros & cons. Probably the reduction in summer solar radiation absorbed would outweigh the autumn, maybe winter, northern hemisphere air circulation changes.

    • indy222 Says:

      You don’t understand – we HAD a solid Arctic Ocean ice cap for thousands of years, until the rapid break up beginning just 20 odd years ago. Don’t take what we have in 2020 as “normal”! Don’t argue that if we go back to the Ice Cap of all the centuries prior to the year ~2000 that it will “change” things! No, things are changing in a bad direction beCAUSE we lost the ice cap that re-icing will repair. Please – re-read the meaning of the two safety criteria.

      • grindupbaker Says:

        The breaking of sea ice in autumn to cool the Arctic Ocean will alter northern hemisphere air circulation though.

      • terrydonte Says:

        What you say is simply not true. Here is a paper on the subject.https://phys.org/news/2008-10-ice-arctic-ocean-years.html
        As to the PC at the bottom , that is simply the people making sure they get the next grant by not commenting negatively on the current religion. Warmer 7000 years ago with less CO2 leaves the sun. The sun changes its output or changes in the earth tilt and orbit increase the warming or both. None of that is currently PC so is simply not mentioned. If you are actually interested in past temperatures take a look at the graft here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendroclimatology you will note it has been on average cool for the last 2000 years and just recently started warming again. There is no actual evidence that warming is caused by the increased CO2 as CO2 had zero to do with past warm ups and cool downs in the last 7000 years.

  4. redskylite Says:

    Haven’t we done enough geoengineering experiments on our home planet already. ??

    We evolved when nature created the right conditions for humanity to thrive – what makes us think we could put it back in balance with a few hairbrained insignificant tricks. We must change our act and stop our reliance on coal and oil.

    Must be the CO2 getting to our brains.
    —————————————————————————————-

    “What we can say is that geoengineering is very complicated. The political, social, ecological, economic and moral consequences of Wolovick and others’ proposals are far from fleshed out. How would a giant underwater wall impact wildlife? Who would pay for these projects? What governing body would oversee the process, like in Antarctica, a continent ruled by international treaties? What about the Indigenous communities in the Arctic—do they get a say? What if these technologies give humanity a license to ignore emissions because we have an “easy fix”?

    Ultimately, Moon thinks our resources are better spent adapting and mitigating in the present.

    For Wolovick, geoengineering offers a contingency plan for the future.

    But “in the long run, the fate of ice sheets is closely tied to cumulative CO2 emissions,” he says. “If we keep emitting carbon without bound, the only reasonable goal of glacial geoengineering would be to slow the rate of collapse.”

    https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/could-geoengineering-help-save-world-s-ice

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      “Alarmist” note: The setting of the Snow-Piercer movie was a geo-engineering cooling project that overshot and led to a snowball Earth.

      😉

  5. indy222 Says:

    Clearly there’s a lack of understanding here. Realize that tons of studies show that if we merely end CO2 emissions, it will NOT lower temperatures back to safe pre-industrial levels. It will not lower temperatures at all. If you don’t understand that key fact, the rest will be lost on you. Worse, in-direct GHG emissions are now being triggered which means that even ending all direct human-generated GHG’s will not stop un-natural GHG excess emissions and so temperatures won’t stop rising even then. We’ve FORCED ourselves into GeoEngineering if we want to return to a safe climate. It’s not either/or. It’s both. End emissions and bring down temperatures also, to save further damage and return climate to what it was.
    What we must firmly resist is the profit-hunters hair-brained schemes to spread iron across the oceans, or whilte floaties across the Arctic, or paint everything white, or artificial clouds where they have no business being, with salt spray auto-ships, or sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere (but continue to research this one).
    Take the Earth BACK along the same trajectory that got us here, that means RE-ICING the Arctic Ocean, which Vaks etal and Lawrence et al showed 10 years ago is responsible for the permafrost melt trigger. Repair it to where it used to be. How can you argue against that?

    Pull CO2 back out of the atmosphere and send it back to Hell – underground in un-fracked geological formations. How can you argue against that? These are safe GeoEngineering ideas.
    Don’t be like the “Never Nukes” people who knee-jerk against, without understanding the issues. Hansen learned the environmental value of molten salt thorium breeder reactors (vs. the pressurized light water reactors of today, using U to generate long term radioactive wastes and using only a tiny fraction of the nuclear available power). The “Never Nukes” people are wrong. It is vastly less intrusive on our enviornment to make use of existing thorium lying around in mine tailings piles today than it is to coat millions of square miles of land with new solar PV panels. Save the PV panels for existing disturbed land and buildings, not virgin open lands.

    • redskylite Says:

      At 72 years old I assure you I will not join the “never nukes” movement, although as a lad in the 1970’s I did join the cnd movement to put an end to the crazy escalation in nuclear weapons, between the Soviets and the U.S.

      Nuclear fission is a proven way of generating electricity, although like other methods their are safety concerns. I have no objection to it.

      Do not insult me and try and equate Nuclear Power = What you consider a safe Geoengineering option.

      No method of geoengineering is proven and every report I have read suggests there are winners and losers. Computer simulations still cannot perfect cloud effects perfectly and the massive programming effort has not been put into geoengineering.

      If you are actually teaching this is beneficial it worries me immensely. Man cannot play god over nations and tribes, he has no right.

      Someone on this blog accused me of “hopium” when I drew attention to some ongoing energy effort, if you are counting on artificial Earth climate control I think this title may be awarded to you.

  6. dumboldguy Says:

    Mike MacCracken may been thinking deeply about climate longer than just about anyone alive, but his musings about ice in the arctic are just another exercise in bright-sidedness and wishful thinking.

    And OOH-Rah and Semper Fi to redsky, who has done so much great barking in his comments on this thread that i am giving him a loud WOOF and awarding him an honorary DOG tag.

    Worth repeating: “Haven’t we done enough geoengineering experiments on our home planet already. ?? We evolved when nature created the right conditions for humanity to thrive – what makes us think we could put it back in balance with a few hairbrained insignificant tricks. We must change our act and stop our reliance on coal and oil. Must be the CO2 getting to our brains”. WOOF again!

    As for “Pull CO2 back out of the atmosphere and send it back to Hell – underground in un-fracked geological formations. How can you argue against that? These are safe GeoEngineering ideas.” Safe? Also unproven and likely unworkable on a large scale.

    “Take the Earth BACK along the same trajectory that got us here, that means RE-ICING the Arctic Ocean, which Vaks etal and Lawrence et al showed 10 years ago is responsible for the permafrost melt trigger. Repair it to where it used to be. How can you argue against that?” Easy. It’s also likely unworkable on a large enough scale, but more importantly is just another distraction that will offer an excuse for the deniers and delay real action.

  7. grindupbaker Says:

    These are my calculations did June 2018 for the eventual end game of zero Arctic Ocean sea ice for 6 months from March 22nd. I assumed only 20 m summer mixing per Kevin Trenberth global information. I’ve done the calculations for no Arctic Ocean sea ice. Presently the lower latitudes send an annual average of 122 w/m**2 to the Arctic Ocean. The top 20 m depth of the Arctic Ocean will have an average annual temperature of:
    +2.8 degrees if the present 122 w/m**2 is still sent to the Arctic Ocean in warm air from the lower latitudes, or
    +0.3 degrees if the present 122 w/m**2 in warm air from the lower latitudes is reduced to 90 w/m**2 after the Arctic Ocean has no sea ice and more of its “own warming”. Therefore, it’s going to be somewhere in that range of +0.3 to +2.8 degrees depending on where in the range of 90 to 122 w/m**2 is the heat sent in warm air from the lower latitudes to the Arctic Ocean. It cannot be <90 w/m**2 with no Arctic Ocean sea ice because with <90 w/m**2 of warmth sent north there simply isn't enough solar radiation to keep the Arctic Ocean ice free because ice forms in late winter so it has to be melted in spring.
    The sort-of Hobson's choice (except there's no choice) or trade-off is, of course, that the lower the Arctic Ocean average annual temperature above the larger the disruption (well, change anyway) to the northern hemisphere air circulation and, conversely, the lower any change from existing (23% into it) northern hemisphere air circulation the larger the Arctic Ocean average annual temperature increase.

  8. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    An arctic band-aid I’ve been wistful about is using existing anchored synthetic “ice floes” along the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Hell, even sell advertising on them for Google Earth if it would make them feasible. We might be able to save pockets of both megafauna and under-the-ice species.

    Ah, well….

    • dumboldguy Says:

      A terrific idea, that business about selling google earth advertising on ice floes. I for one spend hours every day google-earthing the shores of the Arctic.


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