Sunday, January 04, 2009

Colder Weather Spurs Late Revival of Arctic Ice

Arctic Research Center:  Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979


  "Thirty years of sea ice data. The record begins at 1979, the year satellite observations began (Source: Arctic Research Center, University of Illinois)

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close. "        

--Michael Asher (Blog) - January 1, 2009  Link to full entry

Arctic sea ice decreased significantly through much of last year, but satellite data shows the trend was reversed late in the year, with the rate of increase from September to year end showing the fastest rate of change on record - either for rate of increase or rate of decrease.  According to the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center as reported in the blog above, the information is collected via satellite observation of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.  This is the method used to calculate snow cover data as well.

Sea ice is a very useful indicator of short-term trends because it forms and melts much more quickly than the huge and thick ice sheets anchored to bedrock in Antarctica and around the Arctic Circle.  In the last quarter of 2008, the thinner sea ice had less snow cover than the ice sheets to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Arctic Research Center report (Arctic Research Center Website) uses a system based upon the mean ice anomaly - a measurement which reflects the difference between the current sea ice value and the mean sea ice value for the period between 1979 and 2000 (1979 is the year satellite data first began to be used for this purpose).  The above image shows the mean sea ice anomaly value at near 1, about where it was in 1979.  Note that as late as September the word "unprecedented" was frequently being attached to predictions of low sea ice levels:


This is just one of the many ways that science continues to learn about the processes, causes and effects, and the historical record for climate related processes on earth.  Because the record is so complex, it can be very difficult to model the future based on data from multiple and variable sources, collected by different means and over a very short period of time, in terms of the planetary history.  Clearly, science does not yet understand all of the earth's processes or the complex interrelationships that drive them. 

By way of disclaimer, though, please note that merely publishing reports that do not conform to global warming doctrine at face value does not in any way indicate that I am a denier.  I am uncomfortable with many definitive statements that are made concerning earth processes for which we have only cursory and recent data to interpret.  However, that does not mean that we should conduct ourselves as if our activities have no impact on the planet.  Clearly they do, and to whatever extent science ultimately demonstrates, human actions are wasteful and have an unnecessary impact on the ecosystems and processes of the planet.  I prefer to take a logic-based approach in this case rather than an empirical approach where facts are tough to demonstrate.  The logic-based approach, as I see it (and no doubt Gifford Pinchot would concur), is simply to conserve our natural resources, minimize the footprint of humans to the greatest practical degree, and to conduct our future designs, economy and collective lifestyle with as great an emphasis on preserving the natural processes and resources of the earth as we can manage.  By taking this approach, the objective of the current global warming proponents can be met without the need of introducing political agenda and public relations into the scientific process.  The need to prove that each wasteful or polluting activity is having grave consequences right now is moot, if the guiding principal is conservation. 

Oh, and yes, I realize that is idealistic.  Once we have uniformly adopted conservation I propose we move on to world peace. 

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Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
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