This week another massive beaching of walruses in the Alaskan Arctic. I did video on this a few years ago that is still relevant. The science denial media would like images of suffering animals to just go away, and for you to stop thinking about it all the time, dammit.

Media Matters:

The Daily Caller tried to “debunk” the “myth” that a recent mass walrus beaching is connected to global warming, even though scientists say the walruses have crowded onshore because they cannot find a resting place on Arctic sea ice, which has declined significantly as the Earth warms.

An October 1 Daily Caller article titled “Myth Debunked: Arctic Walrus Beachings Are Nothing New” promoted zoologist Susan Crockford’s claims that a recent massive beaching of around 35,000 walruses on a single Alaskan shore has nothing to do with climate change. To support her claim, Crockford cherry-picked two instances of walrus beachings from the 1970s.

However, Biologist Anatoly Kochnev of Russia’s Pacific Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography told NBC News that extended beachings of this size only began occurring in the late 1990s, adding: “The reason is global warming.”  Vox.com’s Brad Plumer further reported that this “appears to be the largest ever observed in northern Alaska, though NOAA is still trying to verify the exact numbers.” The current beaching is so vast that the Federal Aviation Authority is re-routing flights in order to avoid setting off a stampede.

In six of the past eight years, all of the floating sea ice in the Chukchi Sea (the region of the Arctic near the current haul-out) that walruses need to rest in between swims has completely melted away by mid-September, according to Chadwick Jay, head of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Pacific walrus program.

In the Daily Caller article, Crockford even noted that mass walrus beachings occurred in 2009, 2011 and 2014, but dismissed them simply because they “did not coincide with the lowest levels of Arctic summer sea ice” in 2007 and 2012.

However, every one of these years had much less Arctic sea ice than the historical average, contributing to the extended beachings.

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Dr. Karen Cameron is a scientist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, and participated in this year’s Dark Snow Project encampment on the Greenland ice.

Dr. Cameron’s descriptions of the evolving melt season, together with Sara Penrhyn Jone’s stunning videos, are evocative of what scientists experience in the course of this research.

Cameron spent 47 days on the ice this summer, and was airlifted out with her team, on the same chopper that brought me in.

I’ll be presenting short clips of her observations over coming months.

On April 21, 2013, the Dark Snow Project brought a bit of Greenland to Manhattan, to illustrate the importance of this summer’s planned expedition to sample Greenland ice. It kicked off the last leg of our historic citizen-science crowd funding campaign.

If this final fundraising push is successful, I’ll be traveling in June to the Greenland Ice sheet as part of a scientific expedition to investigate the steady darkening and increasing melt of that important ice sheet. Bill Mckibben will be coming along to write this up for Rolling Stone, as well.

There are 3 ways to help out, if you haven’t already. One, you can go to Darksnowproject.org, and make a donation at the bottom of the page. Two, you can text darksnow to 50555, or Three, you can go to the IndieGoGo crowdsourcing site.

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Figure 1. Over the course of several years, turbulent water overflow from a large melt lake carved this 60-foot-deep (18.3 meter-deep) canyon in Greenland’s Ice Sheet (note people near left edge for scale). Image credit: Ian Joughin, University of Washington.

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

“There’s no place on Earth that is changing faster–and no place where that change matters more–than Greenland.” So said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, in a 2012 Rolling Stone magazine interview. As Earth Week 2013 draws to a close, I want to draw your attention to a unique effort to learn more about why Greenland is melting so fast–a crowd-funded research project that anyone can contribute to, which aims to answer the “burning question”: How much does boxglasseswildfire and industrial soot darken the ice, increasing melt? The Dark Snow Project, the first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowd-source funding, hopes to raise $150,000 to mount a field research campaign to find out. The project is the brainchild of Dr. Jason Box, Professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), and one of the world’s leading experts on Greenland’s glaciers. He has set up a website called darksnowproject.org to help raise the funds for the field campaign, and has raised about half of the needed amount as of mid-April.

2012: Unprecedented melting in Greenland

Watching the weather events of 2012 over Greenland made all seasoned climate watchers a little queasy. The vast ice sheet on the island holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and the ice melt season of 2012 gave notice that an epic melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet may be underway. According to NOAA’s 2012 Arctic Report Card, the duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2012 was the longest since satellite observations began in 1979, and the total amount of summer melting was nearly double the previous record, set in 2010 (satellite records of melting go back to 1979.) A rare, near-ice sheet-wide surface melt event melted 97% of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet on July 11 – 12. While a similar melt event at the summit occurred 1889, but the 1889 event has no basis in the instrumental record from coastal Greenland. It’s instead likely that 2012 was Greenland’s warmest summer in at least 863 years, since the medieval warm period (see http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=677 and http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=725).

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It would not be a surprise if this sort of summer began occurring regularly, since the ice sheet reached its darkest value on record in 2012. The darkened surface was due to below average summer snow, soot particles from pollution and forest fires, and record melting. A darker ice sheet absorbs more solar energy, in a vicious cycle that raises temperatures, melts more ice, and further darkens the ice sheet. The amount of melting that was caused by soot from forest fires is important to know, since global warming is likely to increase the amount of forest fires in coming decades. However, the amount of forest fire soot landing on the Greenland Ice Sheet is almost completely unknown, which is why Dr. Box is determined to find out, via the Dark Snow Project.

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