September 15, 2007

Ocean Circulation ... Yawn(ing Abyss)

The Earth's vital signs are looking bad, and ocean circulation patterns are changing, with warmer water being directed into the Arctic from the Atlantic. Siberia is unusually warm, while England is unusually cold. And the Greenland ice cap is melting so fast that it's causing earthquakes. Oh, Greenland:

... Melting of the current Greenland ice sheet would result in a sea-level rise of about 6.5 meters; melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet would result in a sea-level rise of about 8 meters (table 1). The West Antarctic ice sheet is especially vulnerable, because much of it is grounded below sea level. Small changes in global sea level or a rise in ocean temperatures could cause a breakup of the two buttressing ice shelves (Ronne/Filchner and Ross). The resulting surge of the West Antarctic ice sheet would lead to a rapid rise in global sea level.

Reduction of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets similar to past reductions would cause sea level to rise 10 or more meters. A sea-level rise of 10 meters would flood about 25 percent of the U.S. population, with the major impact being mostly on the people and infrastructures in the Gulf and East Coast States ...

All of that fresh meltwater in the North Atlantic, well, that's going to be doing quite a bit to change ocean circulation all on its own. Freshwater is lighter, less dense than saltwater, and tends to float. This is particularly problematic in the North Atlantic, where the cooling and sinking of saltwater near Greenland is one of the prime engines driving our current ocean circulation and global heat exchange patterns.

Sadly, all these changes might also mean the actual death of the Meditteranean Sea, perhaps even sooner than the other major changes that worry the scientific community. It could become stagnant, hypoxic, which means there won't be enough oxygen in the water to support life and it could start off-gassing CO2 in quantity as the organisms it houses die and decompose.

I talked to someone last weekend and I was saying that I was angry about something or other. And he said that it seemed like I was angry about a lot of things. It's true. I'm an angry blogger, and this is one of the reasons why. I grew up believing that there was going to be an apocalypse caused by God, as I've mentioned, so I was relieved when I quit believing all of that. I never thought that there would be real, live people hellbent on having an apocalypse of their own. People who see it coming but still won't do anything to stop it:

George Bush's top scientific advisor has delivered the strongest statement yet from within the US administration that greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity are to blame for climate change.

Professor John Marburger said it was more than 90 per cent likely that mankind was causing global warming and that the earth may become "unlivable" without reductions in CO2 output.

... Describing controls on CO2 emissions as "arbitrary", he nonetheless said: "The CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and there's no end point, it just gets hotter and hotter, and so at some point it becomes unlivable."

He said the state of the science made it difficult to justify a particular target.

"It's not clear that we'll be in a position to predict the future accurately enough to make policy confidently for a long time," he said. ...

Ah yes, it's happening, we just don't feel like doing anything about it. Not for a long time.

Start following what's happening in Greenland and with the Arctic ice cap. There isn't a long time left. If food prices are spiking now, just because of fuel costs, imagine what will happen when climate disruption makes major grain-growing areas unsuitable for grain production. Not going to be pretty, oh no.

Tell Congress to do something meaningful. The Markey bill in the House, Sanders-Boxer in the Senate, not that either piece of legislation goes far enough. But press them to get started on the proper footing. Or the planet gets it.

Posted by natasha at September 15, 2007 06:50 AM | Environment | Technorati links |

it's happening

Posted by: as at September 15, 2007 01:43 PM