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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Global Warming and World Flooding

Before the Saskatchewan stubble jumpers start calling in the real estate evaluators (see Small Dead Animals post “That’s not the Sound of Rushing Waters”) or London property holders start holding fire sales, whoops, make that flood sales, lets apply a little critical thinking to the question of global warming and world wide flooding.

Consider that oceans cover two thirds of the earth’s surface. The recent press reports say that global warming will melt ice will causing oceans to rise from four to six metres. Next think in terms that all land which rises above sea level would have to be covered in an ice sheet twelve metres thick, and all of that ice to melt, for that to happen. Ice does not now, nor ever has covered more than minimal portions of the earth’s land mass. So where is all this ice that is supposed to melt and flood dear old London? Ninety per cent of the ice in the world is in the Antarctic. It is reputed to be approximately 4000 metres thick. I have flown across Greenland and I know from that experience that the ice cap there rises to at least 11, 000 feet. That would cool a lot of cocktails but it, and all other glaciers, is virtually irrelevant in the world scheme of things.

British researchers in the Antarctic have drilled ice cores from which they are deducing climate change over a period of 740,000 years. That information tells me that the Antarctic ice sheet, from which they are drilling their cores, has not melted in all that time.

This ex Saskatchewan farm boy is not taking any options on Saskatchewan property, and I would suggest Kate and her confreres first corner the market on Methuselah pills if they plan to capitalize on that projected Saskatchewan land boom.

Posted by Bob Wood on March 25, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Hey Vitruvius - I might try absquatulating if I knew what it was.

Has it anything to do with loving conspiracy theories?

Curious Javahead.

Posted by: Javahead | 2006-03-26 6:16:25 PM


Oh, sorry, it means to decamp or run away.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-26 6:23:39 PM


Javahead, I remember hearing about that, the big Alaskian project beaming radio waves into the Strataphere. Wasn't there a movie about it?

Next it will be "The Core".

Posted by: tomax | 2006-03-26 8:06:02 PM


Geez a guy goes away for a couple of hours and polysyllablism breaks out.

Vitruvius, eschew sesquipedalianism, wouldja?

Posted by: Halfwise | 2006-03-26 8:12:56 PM


Yeah, sorry about that Halfwise, it's a hobby of mine. Thanks for putting up with me. I'm not so bad antejentacularly, but I probably shouldn't write so much postprandially.

(All right Vitruvius, spill the beans: they mean before breakfast and after dinner. Seriously.)

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-03-26 8:31:15 PM


javahead,
is that the same Richard C. Hoagland of
"Face on Mars" fame, the one widely described as a "pseudo-scientist"?

Posted by: truewest | 2006-03-26 9:15:09 PM


Oh My. Calgarian and Kathryn. How much of that scotch is water? Look, it is simple. The density of water increases as the water cools Just like everything else. It does so down to 4 degrees Celcius. Unlike other matter, it then starts to become less dense. Less dense things float above more dense liquids. Less dense oil rises above the more dense vinegar. Less dense ice floats.

A tumbler glass is too wide to be able to notice the difference anyway. If you truely want to do a more scientific test, you can use a graduated cylinder. Half fill it with water. Put in some crushed ice. Take a measurement. Wait until the ice just melts and take another measurement. Take a final measurement when the liquid is above 5 degrees. The small exposed surface area of the liquid should prevent too much evaporation from messing up your results too much, but doing this experiment in a humid environment should help in case you are worried about evaporation.

The CBC Radio interviewed an Inuit CBC radio host a couple weeks ago. The Inuit guy was talking about the need for Inui to wear sunscreen since the sun's rays are more intense. They can now feel the heat of the sun in December near Rankin Inlet where they never used to before.

What I want to know is this: Why has the earth's temperature remained fairly constant for the last 10,000 years? I got this thought from the Antarctica Vostok ice cores that show an approximate 100,000 ice age/hot spell cycle where ice ages corresponded with spikes in green house gasses. The exception was that the past 10,000 years has been inexplicably warm and fairly consistant.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/warnings/stories/nojs.html

John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2006-03-27 9:16:01 AM


Responding to the argument in the original post:

"Consider that oceans cover two thirds of the earth’s surface. The recent press reports say that global warming will melt ice will causing oceans to rise from four to six metres. Next think in terms that all land which rises above sea level would have to be covered in an ice sheet twelve metres thick, and all of that ice to melt, for that to happen. Ice does not now, nor ever has covered more than minimal portions of the earth’s land mass. So where is all this ice that is supposed to melt and flood dear old London?"

I did a quick Google search. Afraid your facts are wrong. Antarctica is a big land mass that's covered by a very thick ice sheet. "As Earth's fifth largest continent, Antarctica is twice as large as Australia and contains 70 percent of Earth's fresh water resources. The ice sheet, which covers about 98 percent of the continent, has an average thickness of about 6,500 feet. Floating ice shelves constitute about 11 percent of the continent.

"The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet alone - which is about eight times smaller in volume than the East Antarctic ice sheet -- would raise global sea levels by more than 20 feet, according to researchers from the British Antarctic Survey."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060302180504.htm

Plus there's the Greenland ice sheet. According to this page: "The Greenland Ice Sheet contains enough water that if completely melted would raise global sea levels by ~7 meters."
http://www.climatechange.umaine.edu/Research/projects/Greenland/home.htm

Posted by: Russil Wvong | 2006-03-27 11:08:22 AM


OK to simplify a bit, if we "fix" something without understanding the system to begin with, how will we know when we have done enough? Or fixed it right? or made it worse?

In short we can't measure that because we don't understand enough of what contributes to warming.

If it was greenhouse gases, and that is the only cause, then why did we have huge historical fluctuations.

Go back to Greenland again. Leif Erikson "discovered" it for the western world, on behalf of the Scandinavian hordes who liked to tool around the North Atlantic in big row boats with a bit of canvas for prevailing breezes.

This tough hearty gang of wanna be biker dudes of the first millenium, founded their first colony there in 986, LONG BEFORE THE HARLEY DAVIDSON MOTORBIKE WAS PREVALENT amoung helmet heads wearing horns.

So according to the records of the time, that was a green and happy place. BIG WARMING TREND that finished, and began to cool badly. By the time 1500 AD rolls around, the colony is dead, gone, completely eliminated by the ice and snow that prevails to this day.

Other records back this up.

Now just looking at that HUGE GIGANTIC WARMING EVENT that obviously went on for the better part of 400 to 500 years. (it had been going before Leif got lucky and found it, Iceland and Newfoundland in his restless questings for land).

FAR bigger than Kyoto worries, this warming needs to be explained before we can begin to figure out long term weather patterns with enough accuracy to determine whether a huge expensive Kyoto accord is worth the money.

In other words, how do you measure progress if you don't even know the starting line?

The idealists want change at any cost, but they aren't paying the costs, nor are governments. The true costs are paid by industry, and industry is where jobs are created.

So we really really need to figure out how to measure progress, BEFORE WE TOSS OUR ECONOMIES ON THE FUNERAL PYRE AND LIGHT A MATCH.

Posted by: Canadian freedoms fan | 2006-03-27 3:07:32 PM


If you're looking for a discussion of what the current state of scientific understanding of climate is, this website from the American Institute of Physics is a good place to start:
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html

"Now just looking at that HUGE GIGANTIC WARMING EVENT that obviously went on for the better part of 400 to 500 years."

Actually, current warming appears to be larger than the warming during the Medieval Warm Period. See this graph of temperature trends during the last millenium or so.
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/xmillenia.htm

The cause of the medieval warm period (and the following Little Ice Age) appears to have been solar variation.
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/solar.htm

But it appears that greenhouse gases are having a much stronger effect than variations in solar radiation. "A U.S. National Academy of Sciences panel estimated that if solar radiation were now to weaken as much as it had during the 17th-century Maunder Minimum, the effect would be offset by only two decades of accumulation of greenhouse gases. As one expert explained, the Little Ice Age 'was a mere "blip" compared with expected future climatic change.'"

Posted by: Russil Wvong | 2006-03-27 5:48:46 PM


Russil Wvong:
Thank you for at least bringing some references to the discussion. I see that your first two references both show versions of the IPCC Hockey Stick, whose data and shape have been seriously challenged and not yet seriously defended by its authors.

My objections to the Kyoto Protocol are pretty basic: it's bad policy arising from inconclusive science. I personally believe some of its support reflects mankind's innate tendency to find in every natural phenomenon a god that demands to be appeased. Mother Earth replaces Almighty God, as it were.

Let's follow the chain of assumptions that the Kyoto protocol hangs from: if the earth's atmosphere is warming and if the warming is unusual and if the main cause of that unusual warming is industrial CO2 emissions, and if nothing is going to happen that would offset this warming and if a warmer atmosphere is bad for the planet, then we should try to do the things that are prescribed in the Kyoto protocol.

Would that help? Even the proponents of the Kyoto protocol admit that its full implementation would make no noticeable difference to global temperatures over the balance of this century.

Meanwhile millions die from malaria or bad drinking water in undeveloped countries, and resources that should go to studying pressing environmental issues (eg snowpack studies that would have allowed the Red River floods to have been predicted a couple of years ago) go to GW research instead.

Posted by: Halfwise | 2006-03-27 8:57:31 PM


"Thank you for at least bringing some references to the discussion."

No problem.

"I see that your first two references both show versions of the IPCC Hockey Stick, whose data and shape have been seriously challenged and not yet seriously defended by its authors."

Actually, the graph shows the results of eight different studies. The "hockey stick" is the one labelled "Mann99". The authors have a blog, where they do indeed defend their results:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=121

"Would that help? Even the proponents of the Kyoto protocol admit that its full implementation would make no noticeable difference to global temperatures over the balance of this century."

Kyoto is supposed to be a first step.

By the way, here's an FAQ on global warming that responds to a lot of frequent arguments:
http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/guides-by-category.html

Posted by: Russil Wvong | 2006-03-28 11:30:48 AM


About the rise in water, this site: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8889-glacial-earthquakes-rock-greenland-ice-sheet.html has this:

"Other ominous news comes from a pair of new studies examining sea level and glaciation 129,000 years ago. This was during the last interglacial period, when the Arctic was as warm as it is expected to be by 2100 – when it is expected to be at least 2.2°C (4°F) warmer than present. Palaeontological evidence, examined by Jonathan Overpeck at the University of Arizona, US, and colleagues, indicates that sea levels were 4 to 6 metres higher than they are today, and some of that water came from melting of the Antarctic ice sheet."

This contradicts what Russil Wvong posted above on 27-Mar-06 11:08:22 AM


John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2006-03-29 2:33:07 PM


Sorry, I'm afraid I don't understand. Where's the contradiction?

Posted by: Russil Wvong | 2006-03-30 6:15:54 PM



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