…and the points just keep on tipping

13 01 2007

In the Canadian Arctic, a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island, where it has been frozen for at least three thousand years. This actually happened in the summer of 2005, but wasn’t noticed until just recently, when somebody studied the satellite photos and said, “omigawd!” Up until 2005, there had been constant sea ice pressure against Ellesmere’s north shore, which is only about five hundred miles from the North Pole, but open water that year gave the coastal ice a chance to break loose. It took about an hour for the 120-foot thick chunk to go from “same as it ever was” to floating free, and then a day or two for it to cross a few miles of open water and become enmeshed in the sea ice offshore. There is a possibility that in the next few years this 27-square mile giant iceberg’s course will cause it to collide with oil platforms in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, which are built to withstand normal sea ice and storms but not a monster chunk like this. Just what we need, another Arctic oil spill, eh? Canada has lost about 90% of its shelf ice in the last hundred years, according to Wikipedia. Ah, the myth of global warming….

And, speaking of sudden collapse, researchers in Alaska have found that much of the permafrost there has warmed to nearly the freezing point. When permafrost thaws, massive quantities of methane and carbon dioxide are released, and the ground collapses, which is a real problem for areas with western-civilization-style infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and modern buildings. Of course, this is happening all across the Arctic, and its ramifications are being felt in Europe, for example, where last year was the warmest year on record—not just by a little, but by record amounts, according to researchers.

While this isn’t the first time this has happened, research into the last time it happened is not reassuring. The last time our planet endured such an abrupt swing in climate was fifty-five million years ago, when some kind of carbon or methane burp heated the planet up about nine degrees for nearly a hundred thousand years. Nine degrees may not sound like much, but it was enough to make the North Pole “just like Miami, “ according to one scientist. Hey, there’s some great beachfront property on Ellesmere Island that’s just come open…but seriously, it caused mass extinctions, albeit ones that resulted in us being here as we are today. The next roll of the dice may not be so lucky for us.

music: Waterboys, “wind in the wires

Comments

Very frightening… (A very well-written post, btw.)
Posted by lonna on 01/14/2007 10:23:16 PM

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