Saturday, June 28, 2014

Water, no ice

"The findings are striking," NOAA's Kathryn Sullivan, acting administrator, says. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place."

Scientists are reluctant to point directly to the cause of the changes in our climate, but the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.

Go to the NOAA dashboard for updated information
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland. According to the report, the Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.

That was, the report noted, 18% lower than the previous low set in 2007, and 54% lower than the mark for 1980.

The changes were widespread on land as well with record warm permafrost temperatures in Alaska and in the Canadian Arctic. In July last year, Greenland experienced surface melting on 97% of the ice sheet. The record-breaking events indicate an era of "new normal" for the climate, the researchers said.

"The record or near-records being reported from year to year in the Arctic are no longer anomalies or exceptions," said Jackie Richter-Menge, a civil engineer with the US army corps of engineers. "Really they have become the rule for us, for the norm that we see in the Arctic and that we expect to see for the foreseeable future."

The Arctic ice sheet has shrunk so much that National Geographic is having to make what it calls “drastic” changes to its atlas.

That ice melt was also a major cause of sea-level rise, the report found. Global sea levels rose to record highs last year, after being depressed during the first half of 2011 because of the effects of La NiƱa. The average global sea level last year was 1.4 inches above the 1993-2010 average.
"Over the past seven years or so, it appears that the ice melt is contributing more than twice as much to the global sea level rise compared with warming waters," said Jessica Blunden, a climatologist at NOAA's national climatic data center.

And for those persistent naysayers regarding climate change, just put the ice back and we'll call it even.

(Did we cause the warming trend with our use of fossil fuels?  The cause of warming is a continuing question, but the fact that it is happening appears to be rather well established.)