ICE: ARCTIC & ANTARCTIC WARMING

  • Atmospheric methane in the Arctic has spiked sharply upward, increasing 33% in just 5 years. 35(Paul Palmer, a scientist at Edinburgh University, 2010) Melting permafrost in Siberia is releasing five times the amount of methane than was previously thought.36 (Dr. Katie Walter, 2006)
  • The East Siberian Arctic Shelf’s shallow undersea permafrost is also showing instability and releasing significant amounts of methane.37 (Professor Igor Semiletov, head of the International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS), University of Alaska at Fairbanks, USA, 2010)
  • The Arctic tundra is already emitting significantly more methane and nitrous oxide than previously estimated. 38(Prof. Greg Henry, University of British Columbia)
  • Some scientists are calling the thawing Arctic a “ticking time bomb.” 39,40,41
  • This year’s summer Arctic sea ice was at its third smallest area on record, with all three most shrunken area events occurring within the past four years.42(US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), 2010 annual report)

  • Current warming makes it unlikely that the Arctic will return to its previous conditions. 43(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Arctic Report Card 2010 Update, USA)
  • In winter 2009-2010, Arctic warming brought severely cold winds and heavy snow to eastern North America and eastern Eurasia. 44,45,46,47(Dr. James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA, 2010)
  • Overall warming has extended the annual melting period for Arctic sea ice to 20 days longer now than three decades ago, meaning more heat can be absorbed by the Arctic sea, and big impacts on marine ecosystems and North American climate.48 (NASA 2010)
  • Due to disappearing ice, polar explorers were able for the first time to journey around the North Pole in a small fiberglass sailing boat, a feat that would have been impossible even 10 years ago without an ice-breaker ship because the passages were sealed with ice.49 (Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland, voyage started in June 2010)
  • The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth.50
  • The Arctic sea ice cover in 2007 was the lowest ever recorded and the Northwest Passage was navigable for the first time.51 Only 10% now is older and thick ice, while over 90% is newly formed and thin.52 Scientists forecast a completely ice-free summer as soon as 2012 or 2013.53,54
  • Without the protective ice to reflect sunlight, 90% of the sun's heat can enter the open water, thus accelerating global warming.55,56
  • The world’s two major ice sheets, GREENLAND AND ANTARCTICA, are now melting at accelerated rates, whereas before 2000, they were thought to be stable.57
  • Greenland is seeing its worst ice melt and glacial area loss in at least five decades.58 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Arctic Report Card 2010 Update, USA)
  • Glaciers have recently doubled or tripled their movements toward the sea.59 (Ian Joughin, University of Washington , 2010)
  • “Icequakes” caused by breaking icebergs have more than tripled since 1993.60 (Göran Ekström and Meredith Nettles, Columbia University, USA, 2010)
  • The possible, complete loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet would result in a 7-meter sea level rise.61
  • Melt water speeding the Greenland Ice Sheet melt could cause its disintegration over decades rather than centuries, as previously forecast.62 (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Colorado, USA)
  • On August 5, 2010, one-quarter of Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, four times the size of New York’s Manhattan island and the largest in nearly half a century, broke off. "The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years," said Professor Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware.63,64,65
  • On the Antarctic Peninsula, 99% methane gas has been seen continuously bubbling up in certain areas of the water’s surface.66 (Argentine geologist Dr. Rodolfo del Valle)
  • A major review published in 2009 found that especially Antarctica’s ice shelves on the Western Peninsula are retreating at an ever-accelerating rate, speeded by warming waters beneath the shelves.67,68,69
  • Over 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Western Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated. In 2002, the vast 12,000-year-old Larsen B Ice Shelf took only three weeks to disintegrate entirely.70
ICE: GLACIER MELT

  • More than 46,000 glaciers and permafrost expanses are thawing rapidly in “the Third Pole,” the Earth’s 3rd largest store of ice after the Arctic and Antarctic, located on the Tibetan plateau and Himalayas. Known as “Asia’s water tower,” the region’s glacial retreat could affect more than 1.5 billion people across 10 countries. 71(Third Pole Environment program led by Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2010)
  • With Bolivia’s 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya Glacier already gone, other South American Andean glaciers could disappear within a few decades.72,73
  • Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers are receding 3 times as fast as 1950s, or as much as 50 meters per year. 95% of the glaciers could be gone by the end of the century.74 (Institute of Hydro Energy at the National Academy of Sciences in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
  • Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro has lost 85% of its glacier cover since 1912 and could be completely gone in 20 years.75 (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2009)
  • The US’ Glacier National Park is set to be glacier-free by 2020, 10 years earlier than previously forecast. 76(US Geological Survey, 2009)

 Reference
Latest News
East Antarctic Ice Sheet more sensitive to climate changes than previously thought. - 27 Feb 2011
Mexican glacier could disappear in just a few years. - 25 Feb 2011
Tibetan Plateau glaciers in dramatic decline. - 21 Feb 2011
Unprecedented ocean warming speeding Arctic melt. - 13 Feb 2011
Antarctica to welcome youngest Asian visitor. -3 Feb 2011
Greenland melting at record pace. - 30 Jan 2011
Extensive glacier melt to continue due to global warming. - 23 Jan 2011
Antarctic melting due to rising heat from deep oceans. - 12 Jan 2011
Record high temperatures threatening Greenland's ice sheets. - 7 Jan 2010
Polar bears dying from climate change-related ice melt. - 29 Dec 2010
Accelerated glacier melt threatens food security. - 28 Dec 2010
Melting Arctic Sea ice causing colder winters. - 7 Dec 2010
Rapidly melting Kyrgyz glaciers imperil biodiversity. - 23 Nov 2010
Water accelerating ice sheet melt. - 11 Nov 2010
Rising temperatures damaging Arctic lake ecosystems. - 10 Nov 2010
more  
61
East Antarctic Ice Sheet more sensitive to climate changes than previously thought. - 27 Feb 2011
60
Mexican glacier could disappear in just a few years. - 25 Feb 2011
59
Tibetan Plateau glaciers in dramatic decline. - 21 Feb 2011
58
Unprecedented ocean warming speeding Arctic melt. - 13 Feb 2011
57
Antarctica to welcome youngest Asian visitor. -3 Feb 2011
56
Greenland melting at record pace. - 30 Jan 2011
55
Extensive glacier melt to continue due to global warming. - 23 Jan 2011
54
Antarctic melting due to rising heat from deep oceans. - 12 Jan 2011
53
Record high temperatures threatening Greenland's ice sheets. - 7 Jan 2010
52
Polar bears dying from climate change-related ice melt. - 29 Dec 2010
51
Accelerated glacier melt threatens food security. - 28 Dec 2010
50
Melting Arctic Sea ice causing colder winters. - 7 Dec 2010
49
Rapidly melting Kyrgyz glaciers imperil biodiversity. - 23 Nov 2010
48
Water accelerating ice sheet melt. - 11 Nov 2010
47
Rising temperatures damaging Arctic lake ecosystems. - 10 Nov 2010
46
Arctic warming has global implications. - 7 Nov 2010
45
Argentine glaciers melting - 12 Oct 2010
44
Arctic ice region further diminished - 7 Oct 2010
43
Permafrost at Mt. Fuji and in Siberia melting at alarming rate - 28 Sep 2010
42
Satellite images reveal shrinking of Mount Ararat glaciers - 25 Sep 2010
41
Antarctic melt is speeding methane release - 23 Sep 2010
40
British cold water swimmer urges action on climate change - 20 Sep 2010
39
Massive ice chunks separate from Tasman glacier - 2 Sep 2010
38
Evidence of link between ice melt and earthquakes - 21 Aug 2010
37
British eco-athlete calls for radical shift in approaching climate change - 15 Aug 2010
36
Reducing black carbon could significantly slow polar ice melt - 15 Aug 2010
35
French Alpine glacier at risk of bursting - 12 Aug 2010
34
Greenland glacier loses largest ice since 1962 - 9 Aug 2010
33
Warming Arctic oceans could result in devastating methane release - 30 Jul 2010
32
Glacier loss demonstrated with photo exhibit - 26 Jul 2010
 
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The Himalayan Glaciers Are Disappearing
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The Antarctic Melt: Interview with Professor Peter Barrett
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Dramatic Arctic Sea Ice Melt: An Interview with Dr. Greg Flato
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The Vital Role of Arctic Sea Ice: An Interview with Drs. Ted Scambos & Mark Serreze
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Glaciologist warns of drastic ice melt. - 11 Apr 2010
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The Antarctic Melt: Interview with Professor Peter Barrett  
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Wonderful and caring friends, welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home on Supreme Master Television. This week we are fortunate to speak with Dr. Peter Barrett, Professor of Geology and Director of the Antarctic Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Professor Barrett has spent over four decades studying the Antarctic with a particular interest in its historical evolution over time.

In the 1960’s Professor Barrett spent 5 years at Ohio State University, USA where he completed his doctorate.

He also worked in Antarctica mapping the continent’s mountains and thus became fascinated by the ancient history of the region.

When he returned to New Zealand, he took part in a deep-sea geological drilling expedition of the ocean floor near the Antarctic.

He discovered that core samples obtained from drilling are the key way to trace the past of the Antarctic continent.

Currently Professor Barrett is taking ice-core samples in the Antarctic to better understand the climatic and chemical changes that have occurred in the area over time.

Supreme Master TV:
You’ve been working on several Antarctic drilling projects for the last 30 years or so. Can you tell us how these projects help us to understand Earth’s past and present climate?

Professor Peter Barrett:
The polar regions are particularly sensitive parts of the planet.

Most of the heat comes in from the Sun on the tropics; it gets circulated down to the poles. But changes are greater in the polar regions than they are in the more central part of the Earth, and what the drilling does is to actually get us a history of climate going back in time. Because the Antarctic is mostly covered with ice, we can’t use exposed rocks like you do on other continents; so drilling is so important.

HOST:
Professor Barrett is also investigating the effects of global warming on the Earth’s ice sheets and the subsequent rises in sea-levels.

Dr. Jay Zwally, a leading American climatologist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, has stated that the Arctic could be ice-free by the summer of 2012.

Professor Peter Barrett shared with us the possible repercussions of such an event.

Professor Peter Barrett:
There will be quite profound consequences.

But perhaps first it’s important to say that the changes there are taking place faster than predicted.

Our understanding of ten years ago suggested that this melting wouldn’t take place until later this century.

But we are gaining knowledge so quickly now, it’s important to realize that we must stay apace with this knowledge, so that we can make better judgments about the future.



        Image showing Antarctic snowmelt in various areas for the first time (Image Credit - Nasa.gov)
HOST:
Although much discussion has occurred regarding the melting of the Greenland ice sheets, the disintegration of the ice at the Antarctic is also a significant marker of global warming.

This precious place contains 90% of the world’s ice and thus holds most of its fresh water reserves.

If the Antarctic were to completely melt, it could potentially cause a 190-foot or 58 meter rise in sea-level.

This figure does not take into account thermal expansion, or the increase in the volume of water when it is heated, which could further raises the height of the ocean.

Professor Peter Barrett:
In the last four years, the scientific reports, not only from the Antarctic, though these are serious, but also from the tropical regions, make it quite clear that it’s human CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions that are causing these changes we’re observing.

And I’m just mindful of the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was a Peace Prize because of the work that that committee has done to understand and advocate for the management of the climate problem.

HOST:
The Antarctic can be divided into three main areas: the Peninsula, the West Antarctic and the East Antarctic.

In March 2008, a large part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf located in the Peninsula, measuring about 405 square kilometers, separated from the Peninsula.

In January 2009, it was reported that the entire Shelf, which measures more than 14,000 square km, is near total collapse.

Professor Peter Barrett:
In the case of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, this is significant because the Antarctic Peninsula, is warming faster than almost anywhere else on Earth.

The warming rate, it’s like two-and-a-half degrees in the last 50 years; that’s also true of the Arctic and Siberia but most of the rest of the Earth is not that fast.

 2008 partial collapse of the Wilkins Ice Sheet, showing ice strip holding back further collapse
(Image Credit - the National Snow and Ice Data Center)
And that is now recognized as a response to this warming, which itself is a part of the larger global warming, which we’re now starting to experience.

It represents a warning!

Professor Peter Barrett:
With the knowledge that we now have of Earth’s history and carbon dioxide levels in the past, it’s quite plain that we are moving now into a very dangerous period of climate change.

In our own work in Antarctica, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed, or simply wasn’t present.


We have good records of this, three- or four-million years ago, at a time when CO2 levels were less than 400 parts per million and we are now approaching that.

Now, this is a situation where we don’t expect that the moment it reaches that point the Antarctic will respond, but what it does mean is that we have, actually, the climate in which that will eventually take place.

First, the sequence is very clear– the ice shelves break out first.

You’ve mentioned the Wilkins Ice Shelf, that’s further north but that’s already happening.

The Ross Ice Shelf is much bigger; it will need a rise in temperature, of four or five degrees. But that could happen within a few decades and then once that goes, that releases the ice in West Antarctica.

So it’s hard to say what’s worse – it actually happening now, or a civilization that lives in the knowledge that it will happen, and that sea level will rise about 10 or 15 meters as a consequence.

HOST:
Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, where we have been speaking with Professor Peter Barrett of the Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand on the melting Antarctic ice sheets.

The melting of the polar ice caps is exacerbated by a feedback mechanism known as the “albedo flip,” whereby human-induced global warming heats the atmosphere and ocean, thus melting the ice sheets.

As ice acts like a mirror and reflects some of the sun’s rays back out to space, the increased ice melt allows more of the sun’s energy to enter the ocean, thus further warming the water and causing an increase in the melting of the ice.

This situation is made worse by the subsequent release of methane and other global-warming gases from the Earth’s frozen permafrost.

Professor Barrett explains more about this imminent danger.

Professor Peter Barrett:
There is another risk with methane and that is the fact that billions of tons are stored in a solid form beneath the oceans, and in a warming world these could be released.

And At the moment in the Arctic, methane is bubbling away; it’s been observed in the last year.

The melting of permafrost releases more methane and nobody knows just when some sort of point will be reached when there will be a cataclysmic dissociation, a discharge of methane.

This is a very good reason to keep global temperatures as low as possible.

HOST:
In such critical times, the world needs sound solutions and immediate actions both at the individual and governmental levels.

Professor Barrett explains.

Professor Peter Barrett:
I just see a very obvious moral obligation.

You can make it more personal by the notion of a personal carbon footprint. In my country, our carbon footprint is about four tons of carbon per year per person. This is large. In countries like India or China it’s much less than one ton; even though the emissions might be large the individual footprint is small.

So because the core problem is carbon dioxide, in particular, it’s a gas that is very long-lived, and so I see it as our responsibility to reduce and eliminate carbon dioxide emissions so that the Earth can have its balance restored.

Supreme Master TV:
What do you see as the important actions that need to be taken from a leadership level?

Professor Peter Barrett:
To me the most important thing is to acknowledge the problem and to advocate ways of dealing with it at every level.

And To me the outstanding example of this is Barack Obama, (he) made a very clear statement and which I would love to be able to quote completely; but to me it was quite a relief and quite inspirational.

He was essentially saying that the science is understood, the problem is great, it can no longer be denied, we must act now.

Supreme Master TV:
And what changes would you encourage on an individual level to reduce climate change?

Professor Peter Barrett:
There are many, and I actually think individual action is just as important as governmental action. and The reason is that I think we personally need to feel both positive and challenged, and to feel that we are making the biggest difference we can.

And so the sort of actions I think in terms of our thinking, to live simply; to think about what we do and to really use as little energy as possible.

HOST:
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the livestock industry is responsible for producing more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the transport in the world combined including cars, planes and ships.

Nobel laureate and chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri has also stated that one of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to stop the consumption of meat.

In fact, according to a study by Drs. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago, USA, the carbon footprint of a meat-based diet is 1.5 tons heavier than that of a plant-based diet per person per year.

We asked Professor Barrett for his views on the benefits of a vegetarian diet with regard to climate change.

Professor Peter Barrett:
I can see the benefits of a vegetarian diet very clearly. I have reduced my meat intake quite significantly, and I will continue to do so.

I think a move in that direction, towards a vegetarian diet, is really a very important part of the changes that we need to make.

HOST:
Named Wellingtonian of the Year in 2006, Professor Barrett concluded the interview with some words of encouragement and hope for the planet and its inhabitants.

Professor Peter Barrett:
I think there are quite a few examples around the world, in our history, where there have been positive changes.

I’m quite sure this is what we will get to eventually.

The only question is how much damage do we have to suffer in the process?

This is why urgency is important, the next few years are important.

James Hansen has been outstanding in the way that he makes this clear. His goal of 350 parts per million, I think we must really simply acknowledge and aim for.

Now, we have exceeded that, but the challenge is for a mix of our technology and a changed way of life to reduce CO2 levels down to 350 parts-per-million and try to really get us out of the danger zone.

HOST:
With both the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melting, urgent action is needed to reduce carbon, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions to restore balance to our beautiful planet.

The simplest and quickest way to stop global warming, that everyone can do easily and immediately, is to adopt a plant-based, vegan diet, which also happens to be exceptionally good for one’s health.

To close our program, we would like to extend our gratitude to Professor Peter Barrett for his wise words and precious time.

For more details on professor Peter Barrett, please visit:
http://www.victoria.ac.nz/antarctic/people/peter-barrett/index.aspx