It’s odd where inspiration comes from sometimes.
I’d been watching this video of Tiny Tim singing “The Ice Caps Are Melting” and got to wondering where he got that idea back in the 1960s during the New Little Ice Age scare. Turns out, the Arctic Ice Cap has had periods of shrinkage at a variety of times (including when various US and Russian Subs surfaced and hung out at the North Pole in clear water). The video is a bit of a ‘hoot’ in any case:
While I didn’t find his motivation, I did find some other interesting things. Like this nice page that talks about how truly horrific the winds are in Antarctica:
Wind is the movement of air from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure. These pressure differences are caused by differences in temperatures. Generally, colder temperatures develop higher pressure due to the sinking of cold, dense air towards the Earth’s surface. Lower pressure is due to warm air rising from the surface of the Earth. The rotation of the Earth causes these winds to curve as they move from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure.
In Antarctica, the wind patterns observed are part of a larger, global pattern of atmospheric circulation. Due to the round outline of the Antarctic continent, the circulation is relatively uniform with few irregularities to complicate weather patterns.Thus, the continent is ringed by a series of weather “bands”, each of which has its own particular weather conditions.
It then proceeds to describe those different bands. Having that kind of thing change it’s range could really mess up your day!
Some of the fiercest and most deadly Antarctic winds are created by temperature inversions on the high interior ice plateau. The Polar Plateau offers a constant source of extremely cold air which settles close to the ground due to the force of gravity. This pool of dense air flows from the high continental interior down toward the coast, just like a river. The Coriolis effect deflects these inversion winds toward the west, creating the coastal easterlies.
Most of the interior surface winds move over a gentle slope. However, indentations and channels in the landscape can force the airflow to converge, like placing a finger partway over a flowing water hose. This strengthening and intensifying effect on air flow creates what are called katabatic winds (katabasis is Greek for descent). Katabatic winds begin as inversion winds. Like inversion winds, they are gravity-driven but they flow down the much steeper slopes of the coastal regions. The winds are surface winds, only reaching heights of about 1500 feet, although this height varies. Wind speeds can accelerate suddenly from quiet conditions to 60 feet per second (40 mph).
The most famous site for Katabatic Winds, and the windiest spot on Earth, is Cape Dennison at Commonwealth Bay. Convergent katabatic flow from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet results in a mean annual wind speed of 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour)!
Golly. MEAN of 50 MPH so it’s a lot faster a lot of the time…
So, along the way, I run into this excellent paper by Joe D’Aleo and George Taylor:
GLACIERS, SEA ICE AND ICECAPS
By Joseph D’Aleo CCM and George Taylor CCM
That points at the AO and AMO as key driving factors. Well, we looked at the AMO just a while ago, but this AO graph is particularly striking. Taken along with the now very cold state of the AMO, I would expect that well find glacier growth picking up again and building Arctic Ice Cap volume and extent over time as the oceans cool up north(they lag several years).
It looks like it dates from about 2007, so perhaps an update will be made sometime soon showing the impact of the present swap to very cold AO and AMO.
Now that is Quite A Plunge at the end! The graphs in Joe’s paper are from before the AMO and AO fell off a cliff.
An Alternative AO Graph Source as found on:
Here’s the AMO for comparison:
Both of these are in a very cold state. This, in keeping with my reading of the D’Aleo paper, means more glacier growth and more Arctic Ice Cap growth in our future.
And what’s happening with the Polar Vortex? Well, it’s running at or beyond the decade average MAX area:
The area of Arctic Air has gotten larger. Much larger. And it’s got a more ‘loopy jet stream’ to spread it around into North America, Europe, and Asia. That will make more ice, more snow, more glacial growth, and more ice cap growth.
An Ozone Connection?
Interesting to note that the “Ozone Hole” (that is actually just a thinning) is also shrinking:
Something is afoot with Ozone and it’s NOT due to CFC gas emissions changing. Things are changing way too fast for that.
Original Image from this site:
They also have this interesting UV chart that I’m gratuitously including just because I need to watch my UV exposure and I think it’s a ‘way cool’ chart:
Who Needs An Arctic Ice Cap, Anyway
I also stumbled on this plan from the Russians to deliberately melt the Arctic Ice Cap. P.M. Borisov suggested it woud be a good thing. Several other such melting plans are also listed:
This material presents the plan of Petr Mikhailovich Borisov for melting the Arctic ice cap. If the Arctic ice is once melted much less of the sun’s radiation will be reflected out into space and therefore the arctic ice cap will not re-form. An ice-free Arctic Ocean would be a great boon to oceanic shipping, especially between Europe and East Asia. Much land in northern Canada and Siberia would be freed of permafrost and made suitable for agriculture. Borisov believed that an ice-free Arctic Ocean would lead to increased evaporation of water and hence increased rainfall worldwide, including the region of Sahara Desert leading to grass growing there. Borisov considers all of the impacts of the melting of the Arctic ice cap to be beneficial. He asserts that the melting of the Greenland ice cap would raise sea levels at a rate of only 1.5 to 2 mm per year.
Soviet climatologists in the 1950’s and 60’s gave considerable thought to how the melting of the Arctic ice cap could be achieved. Two conferences were held on the topic in Leningrad in the early 1960’s after an initial conference was convened in Moscow by the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1959 on the topic.
The idea of melting the Arctic ice cap goes back at to 1877 when Harvard geologist Nathaniel Shaler proposed channeling more of the warm Kuroshio Current through the Bering Strait. Carroll Livingston Riker in 1912 proposed using a 200 mile jetty off Newfoundland to divert more of the Gulf Stream to the Arctic Basin. Julian Huxley while he was head of UNESCO proposed, in 1946, to use nuclear weapons to break up the Arctic ice cap. Borisov in his article lists the more recently suggested methods for melting the Arctic ice cap.
More at the link…
That article talks about the source as being the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which lead to some Google time, that lead to this article in Google Books where it looks like some other nuclear scientists were proposing that they take nuclear waste, make it into nice little hot vitreous rocks, set it in the middle of Antarctica and let it melt it’s way down to bedrock as a form of self entombment. (I wonder if anyone pointed out that they would still be hot at the bottom and that melting and mixing with hot water was generally “a bad thing” for keeping stuff from wandering off… )
And folks wonder why I don’t trust THIS crop of “experts” any more than I trusted the LAST crop…
Then there is this little article that seems to think that the change in solar output especially in the UV band has caused our atmospheric shrinkage (that one would speculate then leads to things like expanded vortex paths and changes in AO / AMO / etc.):
I was just going to quote some teasers from it, but they have it ‘tagged’ in such a way that you can’t just ‘mark text and copy’ more than tiny bits; so instead I guess I’ll reproduce the whole thing here. That way if I want to quote bits of it in the future I won’t have to go through the fancier techniques…
Shrinking atmospheric layer linked to low levels of solar radiation
AGU Release No. 10–28
26 August 2010
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON—Large changes in the Sun’s energy output may cause Earth’s outer atmosphere to contract, new research indicates. A study published today by the American Geophysical Union links a recent, temporary shrinking of a high atmospheric layer with a sharp drop in the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation levels.
The research indicates that the Sun’s magnetic cycle, which produces differing numbers of sunspots over an approximately 11-year cycle, may vary more than previously thought.
“Our work demonstrates that the solar cycle not only varies on the typical 11-year time scale, but also can vary from one solar minimum to another,” says lead author Stanley Solomon, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s High Altitude Observatory. “All solar minima are not equal.” Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) also contributed to the project.
The findings may have implications for orbiting satellites, as well as for the International Space Station. The fact that the layer in the upper atmosphere known as the thermosphere is shrunken and less dense means that satellites can more easily maintain their orbits. But it also indicates that space debris and other objects that pose hazards may persist longer in the thermosphere.
“With lower thermospheric density, our satellites will have a longer life in orbit,” says CU professor Thomas Woods, a co-author. “This is good news for those satellites that are actually operating, but it is also bad because of the thousands of non-operating objects remaining in space that could potentially have collisions with our working satellites.”
The Sun’s energy output declined to unusually low levels from 2007 to 2009, a particularly prolonged solar minimum during which there were virtually no sunspots or solar storms. During that same period of low solar activity, Earth’s thermosphere shrank more than at any time in the 43-year era of space exploration.
The thermosphere, which ranges in altitude from about 90 to 500 kilometers (55 to more than 300 miles), is a rarified layer of gas at the edge of space where the Sun’s radiation first makes contact with Earth’s atmosphere. It typically cools and becomes less dense during low solar activity. But the magnitude of the density change during the recent solar minimum appeared to be about 30 percent greater than would have been expected by low solar activity.
The study team used computer modeling to analyze two possible factors implicated in the mystery of the shrinking thermosphere. They simulated both the impacts of solar output and the role of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that, according to past estimates, is reducing the density of the outer atmosphere by about 2 percent to 5 percent per decade.
Their work built on several recent studies. Earlier this year, a team of scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory and George Mason University, measuring changes in satellite drag, estimated that the density of the thermosphere declined from 2007–2009 to about 30 percent less than that observed during the previous solar minimum in 1996. Other studies by scientists at the University of Southern California and CU, using measurements from sub-orbital rocket flights and space-based instruments, have estimated that levels of extreme-ultraviolet radiation—a class of photons with extremely short wavelengths—dropped about 15 percent during the same period.
However, scientists remained uncertain whether the decline in extreme-ultraviolet radiation would be sufficient to have such a dramatic impact on the thermosphere, even when combined with the effects of carbon dioxide.
To answer this question, Solomon and his colleagues used a computer model to simulate how the Sun’s output during 1996 and 2008 would affect the temperature and density of the thermosphere. They also created two simulations of thermospheric conditions in 2008—one with a level that approximated actual carbon dioxide emissions and one with a fixed, lower level.
The results showed the thermosphere cooling in 2008 by 41 kelvins (about 74 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to 1996, with just 2 K attributable to the carbon dioxide increase. The results also showed the thermosphere’s density decreasing by 31 percent, with just 3 percent attributable to carbon dioxide. The results closely approximated the 30 percent reduction in density indicated by measurements of satellite drag.
“It is now clear that the record low temperature and density were primarily caused by unusually low levels of solar radiation at the extreme-ultraviolet level,” Solomon says.
Woods says the research indicates that the Sun could be going through a period of relatively low activity, similar to periods in the early 19th and 20th centuries. This could mean that solar output may remain at a low level for the near future.
“If it is indeed similar to certain patterns in the past, then we expect to have low solar cycles for the next 10 to 30 years,” Woods says.
The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was funded by NASA and by the National Science Foundation.
They include directions for getting a copy of the whole paper should you wish.
OK, so by actually looking at stuff (satellites in this case) they find out “the sun did it” and “It’s the UV not the CO2, stupid”.
Somehow I trust Navy guys who have to keep things up and working more than I trust Hansen, Peterson, and the CRU Crew…
It’s cold. It’s getting colder. It will continue to get A Whole Lot Colder. The drivers are pretty clear at this point, ant the mechanisms are being laid out as well. CO2 has very little say in the whole thing, and more folks are starting to realize that.
A partial list of them is here:
And as a final foot note:
I recently got a call from a friend in Ecuador. Seems there is snow on the mountains, in quantity, and at lower elevations than anyone can remember…. That thinner colder atmosphere is even being felt on the equator… Nothing like a few direct physical observations to point you in the right direction…
For those interested in another little trip to the past, this TIME article from 1974 describes the change in the polar vortex and how it was making for the New Little Ice Age we were all expecting back then. Sounds almost like they are describing now:
It is also interesting to see how much snow is out there right now. It’s rather a lot: