Good news and bad news.
The good news is that she has put together a very comprehensive article on global climate changes. It's too long to read at one sitting. Nineteen pages when "printer-friendly." This is why some stuff on paper - like books, magazines and long essays - is still superior to a computer monitor.
The bad news is "(This is the first part of a three-part article.)"
It is now twenty-five years since the Charney panel issued its report, and, in that period, Americans have been alerted to the dangers of global warming so many times that volumes have been written just on the history of efforts to draw attention to the problem. (The National Academy of Sciences alone has issued nearly two hundred reports on global warming; the most recent, “Radiative Forcing of Climate Change,” was published just last month.) During this same period, worldwide carbon-dioxide emissions have continued to increase, from five billion metric tons a year to seven billion, and the earth’s temperature, much as predicted by Manabe’s and Hansen’s models, has steadily risen. The year 1990 was the warmest year on record until 1991, which was equally hot. Almost every subsequent year has been warmer still.
On my second day in Fairbanks, Romanovsky picked me up at my hotel for an underground tour of the city. Like most permafrost experts, he is from Russia. (The Soviets more or less invented the study of permafrost when they decided to build their gulags in Siberia.) A broad man with shaggy brown hair and a square jaw, Romanovsky as a student had had to choose between playing professional hockey and becoming a geophysicist. He had opted for the latter, he told me, because “I was little bit better scientist than hockey player.” He went on to earn two master’s degrees and two Ph.D.s. Romanovsky came to get me at 10 a.m.; owing to all the smoke, it looked like dawn.
Any piece of ground that has remained frozen for at least two years is, by definition, permafrost. In some places, like eastern Siberia, permafrost runs nearly a mile deep; in Alaska, it varies from a couple of hundred feet to a couple of thousand feet deep. Fairbanks, which is just below the Arctic Circle, is situated in a region of discontinuous permafrost, meaning that the city is freckled with regions of frozen ground. One of the first stops on Romanovsky’s tour was a hole that had opened up in a patch of permafrost not far from his house. It was about six feet wide and five feet deep. Nearby were the outlines of other, even bigger holes, which, Romanovsky told me, had been filled with gravel by the local public-works department. The holes, known as thermokarsts, had appeared suddenly when the permafrost gave way, like a rotting floorboard.
(...pinko, commie, extremist...)
For the same reason that it is sweaty in a coal mine—heat flux from the center of the earth—permafrost gets warmer the farther down you go. Under equilibrium conditions—which is to say, when the climate is stable—the very warmest temperatures in a borehole will be found at the bottom and they will decrease steadily as you go higher. In these circumstances, the lowest temperature will be found at the permafrost’s surface, so that, plotted on a graph, the results will be a tilted line. In recent decades, though, the temperature profile of Alaska’s permafrost has drooped. Now, instead of a straight line, what you get is shaped more like a sickle. The permafrost is still warmest at the very bottom, but instead of being coldest at the top it is coldest somewhere in the middle, and warmer again toward the surface. This is an unambiguous sign that the climate is heating up.
The printer is about finished now, but you get the idea.
She goes from Alaska to New Hampshire to Iceland to who-knows-where...
At this point I have only scanned the article.
Those who are interested can follow up. You know who you are.
To the rest of you, buh-bye.
UPDATE: Several hours later...
Well, I read it. I also plan to read parts II and III when published.
I am not optimistic that much will be done as a consequence of these articles. About the bottom of page seventeen she finally got around to mentioning politics. It seems the administration has a few, shall we say, reservations about the hard science involved in the discussion of global warming. Yeah, the words "climate change" is another way to refer to "global warming." So we enter the battle of rhetoric and spin, leaving behind whatever scientific questions may have merit.
Last fall there was a symposium in Iceland convened for the purpose of discussing and looking at global warming, with the aim of creating some level of awareness to bring about policy changes aimed at curbing some of the more disturbing practices contributing to climate changes. I believe I heardNeal Boortz making reference this meeting in a very sarcastic tone.
Global warming is routinely described as a matter of scientific debate—a theory whose validity has yet to be demonstrated. This characterization, or at least a variant of it, is offered most significantly by the Bush Administration, which maintains that there is still insufficient scientific understanding to justify mandatory action. [...] The policy document remained unfinished because American negotiators had rejected much of the language proposed by the seven other Arctic nations. ...This recalcitrance left those Americans who had travelled to Reykjavík in an awkward position.
Okay, then. We have full disclosure. No surprise ending, so here are some choice quotes anyway...
Any piece of ground that has remained frozen for at least two years is, by definition, permafrost. ...Fairbanks, which is just below the Arctic Circle, is situated in a region of discontinuous permafrost, meaning that the city is freckled with regions of frozen ground. One of the first stops on Romanovsky’s tour was a hole that had opened up in a patch of permafrost not far from his house. It was about six feet wide and five feet deep. Nearby were the outlines of other, even bigger holes, ... known as thermokarsts, [which] appeared suddenly when the permafrost gave way, like a rotting floorboard. ...Across the road, Romanovsky pointed out a long trench running into the woods [which] had been formed when a wedge of underground ice had melted. The spruce trees that had been growing next to it, or perhaps on top of it, were now listing at odd angles, as if in a gale. Locally, such trees are called “drunken.” A few of the spruces had fallen over. “These are very drunk,” Romanovsky said.
A few blocks beyond the drunken forest, we came to a house where the front yard showed clear signs of ice-wedge melt-off. The owner, trying to make the best of things, had turned the yard into a miniature-golf course. Around the corner, Romanovsky pointed out a house—no longer occupied—that had basically split in two; the main part was leaning to the right and the garage toward the left. The house had been built in the sixties or early seventies; it had survived until almost a decade ago, when the permafrost under it started to degrade.
No nation takes a keener interest in climate change, at least on a per-capita basis, than Iceland. More than ten per cent of the country is covered by glaciers, the largest of which, Vatnajökull, stretches over thirty-two hundred square miles. ...Oddur Sigurdsson heads up a group called the Icelandic Glaciological Society. ...composed entirely of volunteers. Every fall, after the summer-melt season has ended, they survey the size of the country’s three hundred-odd glaciers and then file reports... In the organization’s early years—it was founded in 1930—the volunteers were mostly farmers; they took measurements by building cairns and pacing off the distance to the glacier’s edge. These days, members come from all walks of life—one is a retired plastic surgeon—and they take more exacting surveys, using tape measures and iron poles. Some glaciers have been in the same family, so to speak, for generations. Sigurdsson became head of the society in 1987, at which point one volunteer told him that he thought he would like to relinquish his post.
“He was about ninety when I realized how old he was,” Sigurdsson recalled. “His father had done this at that place before and then his nephew took over for him.” Another volunteer has been monitoring his glacier, a section of Vatnajökull, since 1948. “He’s eighty,” Sigurdsson said. “And if I have some questions that go beyond his age I just go and ask his mother. She’s a hundred and seven.”
In contrast to glaciers in North America, which have been shrinking steadily since the nineteen-sixties, Iceland’s glaciers grew through the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Then, in the mid-nineteen-nineties, they, too, began to decline, at first slowly and then much more rapidly. ...In 1996, Sólheimajökull crept back by ten feet. In 1997, it receded by another thirty-three feet, and in 1998 by ninety-eight feet. Every year since then, it has retreated even more. In 2003, it shrank by three hundred and two feet and in 2004 by two hundred and eighty-five feet. All told, Sólheimajökull—the name means “sun-home glacier” and refers to a nearby farm—is now eleven hundred feet shorter than it was just a decade ago.
I found this piece to be interesting and informative even though the outlook is not good, either scientifically or politically. The points are compelling. I deeply want them to be wrong. All I can ask is: what if they are right?