Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dry Paint

The next few weeks will be an exciting time for the melting of ice. Ice melting, second only to the drying of paint, is a popular metaphor for the ironies of unbridled joy, and by unbridled I mean wildly pervasive, and by joy I mean tedium. Still, July is the month, in the Northern hemisphere at least, when ice does melt rapidly. And of all the great places to watch ice melt in the Northern hemisphere none is more compelling than the Arctic sea.

Sometime, in the next few weeks, there is the possibility of a major arctic sea ice melting event which could make 2014 a record-breaking year. Already large pockets of open ocean called polynyas have started to form within the ice-covered arctic sea.

The truth about Arctic sea ice coverage is not exactly what I generally picture in my mind. An area is said to be covered in Arctic sea ice if it is at least 15% ice covered. This means that much of the area covered by arctic sea ice could be as much as 85% open water, with just chunks floating around. In other words a really big storm could appear to be a major melting event by pushing all the sea ice from one part of the ocean to another.

Whatever the major melting event actually is there has been one in the June-July time frame for most of the record-breaking years. The major melt event for the 2012 all-time record occurred earlier in June, but the one for the 2007 record that stood until 2012 occurred later in July. Any day now! Isn’t it exciting!

The Arctic ice is currently tracking at slightly less than the 2007 year trace, and parallel to, but significantly higher than, the 2012 trace.

In March I predicted the maximum sea ice extent about a week before it happened. There was a rapid expansion event that took 2014’s maximum out of the running for a record low. I caution anyone from mistaking any of my guesses for predictions with any discernible intrinsic certainty.

In the Antarctic the amount of sea ice is increasing rapidly. Antarctic sea ice is very different from Arctic sea ice. The Antarctic data are not as pretty as their Arctic cousins. First of all, the sea ice almost completely melts off in the summer. Secondly, its rapid increase may not be a good thing.

In the Antarctic we want the ice to stay on land; by “want” I mean that melting the land ice in the Antarctic could raise the level of the oceans by many feet causing major breakdowns in social structure, wars, pestilence, biblical-level-mad-god plagues, and other “do not want” stuff. If it is in the water it could mean that it has come off the land.

A recent study suggested that some of the major Antarctic glaciers were oozing off the land into the sea at incredible rates. This is not good. To image the movement of glaciers into the Antarctic seas I picture squeezing toothpaste into water. The toothpaste eventually disperses into the water, and the level of the water rises in proportion to the amount of toothpaste squeezed into it. This, however, is an unsatisfactory metaphor as realizing it physically will result in additional dishes, and wasted toothpaste. Only a very foolish person would try it in a bathtub as it makes a significant mess, and one has to waste lots of toothpaste to get the water to rise at all; although if the tub water is really warm and soapy the toothpaste disperses quickly.

Not only does ice melt quicker in July, but paint also dies quicker. Here in the Utah high desert a freshly painted wall can go from glossy-wet to matt in minutes. I’ve got a project planned that involves knocking holes in walls and power tools. After I am almost done I will repaint, call AYD and AOD into the room with me, and I will explain that the drying paint we are watching is a metaphor for an ecological disaster destroying the fabric of humankind’s culture on this planet. Choosing one’s metaphors carefully can save a lot of scrubbing.

“Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt?” -Macbeth Act 5, scene 1


Joe said...

Antarctic sea ice extent, 2 million kilometers above mean for last 35 years or satellite era, all time record anomaly, also today, global sea ice at 1 million square kilometers above norm, there is more ice on planet now than in many years, no melt like Al Gore said to make $25 million on a fake Mann made hokey stick, PS - that collapsing glacier in Antarctica, no biggie, will take place over thousands of years, miss reported in press, just like penguins in Antarctic ice being killed by global warming when it is actually been getting cooler in Antarctic for decades (in troposphere)with more ice than ever recorded even with CO2 at a record down there, but still less than 00.05%

Joe said...

adult onset atheist said...

Just about any point that mentions Al Gore by name in order to allude to his award-winning film of 8 years ago comes off as a raving rant. Why not attack Al Gore on his wife Tipper's push to label inappropriate lyrics on albums? Why not mention his “inventing the internet”? I am not in the habit of defending politicians of most flavors. Your typos do not help either.

Then there is your bizarre usage of random statistics. What does 0.05% CO2 mean? Isn't this a lot in the context of greenhouse warming? At 1% humans start exhibiting symptoms because of direct toxicity.

I mentioned in the post that Antarctica is different. It also supposed to be affected less by man-made global climate change as global geography allows fewer humans in close proximity of Antarctica. However, It appears as if you want to talk about Antarctica in your rant.

Most of the cold areas of Antarctica are on land; geography again. Also unlike the arctic the maximum extent of sea ice is not constrained by land masses. This means that Antarctica has a more sensitive maximum, and the Arctic has a more sensitive minimum. Further complicating things is the nature of what sea ice means. As one travels away from the pole the term “sea ice” more often means closer to only 15% coverage. So since most of the sea ice is close to the pole in the Arctic, and far away from the pole in the Antarctic, the average density of sea ice is expected to be very different.

As far as averages of sea ice globally.... this number is not of much use. The poles are always on opposite seasons. It is impossible to produce an actionable precise number by simply averaging data from two so different out-of-sync systems. You certainly have not attempted to provide accurate meaning to the global numbers you appear to like.

The more accurate gauges of Antarctic ice extent are areas of ice shelfs (they have been collapsing) and thickness of the over-land ice. I do not discuss these numbers as they are more complicated and difficult to explain; the Arctic sea ice is a much more elegant data set.

As far as “that collapsing glacier in Antarctica, no biggie, will take place over thousands of years, miss reported in press” I searched out the original paper on it after I read the news coverage. I did not see the estimate of thousands of years for alarming levels of collapse for the several glaciers, and the paper looked like it presented a reasonable proposition. It was also the latest in a series of papers; the result of many years work by several investigators. However, I am not a geologist. I could have missed some particulars that should have caused me to question the paper.