Digital Diatribes

A presentation of data on climate and other stuff

The Ice Sheet Cracketh – and the Media Rejoiced

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on July 30, 2008

An airplane wing trying to avoid ice flying off the shelf

An airplane wing trying to avoid ice flying off the shelf

Scanning the major news sources today provided a glimpse into the inane fascination with ice. Once again, we receive the report of an ice sheet that has dislodged itself from the mother ice shelf. This time it is not in the Antarctic, where we risk the plight of Penguins, but instead it is in the Arctic – Northern Canada to be exact.

The press wire is from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. It reads as follows:

A chunk of ice spreading across 18 square kilometers (seven square miles) has broken off a Canadian ice shelf in the Arctic, scientists said Tuesday. Derek Mueller, a researcher at Trent University, was careful not to blame global warming, but said the event was consistent with the theory that the current Arctic climate isn’t rebuilding ice sheets.

“We’re in a different climate now,” he said. “It’s not conducive to regrowing them. It’s a one-way process.”

He said a crack in the shelf was first spotted in 2002 and a survey this spring found a network of fissures.

The sheet is the biggest piece shed by one of Canada’s six ice shelves since the Ayles shelf broke loose in 2005 from the coast of Ellesmere, about 500 miles from the North Pole.

Well, I’ll give the good man credit – he was careful not to blame global warming. The problem is that the very fact that this is even news is meant to imply that it’s because of global warming. And worse, it is meant to imply that global warming is anthropogenic. The finer points of the argument have long ago been lost, but I refuse to miss a chance to beat that drum. In the big scheme of things, this story is a non-story.

Let me provide a little picture that shows the reader what is not reported alongside this story about huge ice chunks floating away that will kill us all. It’s a little something called sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean. You will see the cyclical nature of ice melting and freezing, with data going back to June 2002. The intent here is not to argue that current values are comparable to values decades ago, but just to give an indication regarding recent trends in the ice extent.

An inconvenient ice measure

An inconvenient ice measure

This updates daily, but the value of sea ice coverage, as of July 29, 2008 was 7,324,219 square kilometers.

Now, go back and read the story above. We are being told about 18 square kilometers. For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, that means that what has just been splashed as a headline on the major news outlets represents 0.00025% of the Arctic sea ice.

Also note where we are this year in total Arctic sea ice compared to the last three years… It’s larger. Yes, it is lower than the three years preceding that, but it certainly looks like there is a rebound from last year’s low point that seems to be missed in the reporting.

It makes my head hurt.

Well, as I was perusing about, I did notice a couple other things that I thought were interesting. One was a report in Popular Science that tells us that storms lower global carbon levels.

From the article:

When typhoons and hurricanes sweep through mountainous areas, they cause more than human destruction. They also physically and chemically weather the mountains they pass, taking carbon with them and burying it in the oceans in the form of sediment. This in turn allows the planet to cool. While scientists have long predicted that extreme storms cause such effects, only recently have they been able to measure just how carbon much storms take away: tons. Researchers from Ohio State University who measured carbon while a typhoon was passing through in full force in Taiwan—essential since sediment washes away very quickly after a storm—found that more than 400 tons of carbon was being swept away for each square mile of watershed during the storm. A single typhoon in Taiwan, they determined, buries as much carbon in the ocean as all the rains combined in the country for that year.

Although the findings are preliminary and the carbon buried by storms won’t alleviate global warming, the data could still be useful to scientists as a benchmark to calculate the Earth’s carbon “budget,” which is how much carbon is added and removed from the atmosphere overall. Right now, those numbers could be way off if accurate carbon data from storms are not considered.

I particularly like the inference that carbon buried by storms won’t alleviate global warming, even though we’re talking 400 tons of carbon for each square mile of watershed. I wish these people would make up their minds. I mean, our government wants to spend billions of dollars to bury a few tons of the stuff in order to alleviate global warming, but the carbon buried by storms won’t help?

In my opinion, this is just another one of those overlooked feedback effects that help counteract expected trends. They have not been properly modeled, because they have not been contemplated. If contemplated, they are not understood. There will be more and more studies to come about some newly discovered feedback effect that helps counterbalance the effects of carbon dioxide. They will continue to be largely ignored, as well.

But thank goodness for the good Attorney General Jerry Brown and the state of California. They are protecting us from the evil water bottling companies, who are singlehandedly increasing world temperature.

We dont need no stinkin bottled water companies increasing our temps

We don't need no stinkin' bottled water companies increasing our temps

SACRAMENTO (AP) ― Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday said he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California unless its effects on global warming are evaluated.

Nestle Waters North America wants to pump about 200 million gallons of water a year from three natural springs that supply McCloud, about 280 miles north of San Francisco. Brown’s office said that’s enough to fill 3.1 billion 8-ounce plastic water bottles.

“It takes massive quantities of oil to produce plastic water bottles and to ship them in diesel trucks across the United States,” Brown said in a statement. “Nestle will face swift legal challenge if it does not fully evaluate the environmental impact of diverting millions of gallons of spring water from the McCloud River into billions of plastic water bottles.”

Maybe if they agreed to walk the bottles across the United States, it would be agreeable. Is there any reason businesses feel compelled to actually set up operations in California?


One Response to “The Ice Sheet Cracketh – and the Media Rejoiced”

  1. Tony Edwards said

    It never fails to amaze me just how little people think about numbers. talking about 400 tons being buried pales before the truth of the situation. The whole atmosphere is estimated to weigh 5140 trillion tonnes. One part per million weighs 5.14 billion tonnes. 400 tonnes would be somewhere around the 9th decimal place. Hardly worth fretting about. Similarly, trying to do any sort of sequestration would run into the same problem, manageable amounts just don’t make a difference, so why try?

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