Annals of global warming: Time to change maps of Arctic ice

August 11, 2015

National Geographic Society reminded us they’ve had to change maps of the arctic.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

President Barack Obama noted the change in his announcement of U.S. actions to fight climate change. National Geo added details beyond what the president said.

As the ocean heats up due to global warming, Arctic sea ice has been locked in a downward spiral. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated by 12 percent per decade, worsening after 2007, according to NASA. May 2014 represented the third lowest extent of sea ice during that month in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Ice loss is accelerated in the Arctic because of a phenomenon known as the feedback loop: Thin ice is less reflective than thick ice, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ocean, which in turn weakens the ice and warms the ocean even more, NASA says.

Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, reducing the reflectiveness of the ice and absorbing more heat. (See pictures of our melting world in National Geographic magazine.)

“You hear reports all the time in the media about this,” Valdés said. “Until you have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesn’t really hit home.”

(More at National Geo’s site.)

At the last edition of the National Geographic Atlas, a video described why and how changes were made.

We used to think the old Earth was so massive, little could humans do to change it. While it’s probably still true the rock will survive after humans are extinct, we now know we can foul our nest enough to make it uncomfortable, or impossible for our species to stay here.

Global warming is changing the planet. Maps must be changed to show the new face.

Have we acted soon enough, and hard enough to save space for humans to live?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Tackett on Twitter.

Press release on polar bears the climate change skeptics hope you won’t read

August 2, 2009

Why did the self-proclaimed skeptics work so hard to discredit this meeting before it even occurred?  Why have they ignored this press release?

Take it easy! Calm down, stick to the facts! Polar bear photo by Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Office

“Take it easy! Calm down, stick to the facts!” Polar bear photo by Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Office

There is no dramatic finding in the release.  After you read it, you’ll probably wonder, too, why climate change skeptics don’t want you to read this press release:

15th meeting of PBSG in Copenhagen, Denmark 2009


The 15th meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG), hosted by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, was held at the Greenland Representation in Copenhagen Denmark , June 29-July 3, 2009.  The Polar Bear Specialist Group is composed of researchers and managers representing each of the five circumpolar nations that signed the International Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears of 1973.  Since the late 1960s, the members of PBSG have met every 3 to 5 years under the umbrella of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to review and exchange information, and make recommendations for research and management of polar bears throughout the Arctic.

The PBSG renewed the conclusion from previous meetings that the greatest challenge to conservation of polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic resulting from climatic warming.  Declines in the extent of the sea ice have accelerated since the last meeting of the group in 2005, with unprecedented sea ice retreats in 2007 and 2008. The PBSG confirmed its earlier conclusion that unabated global warming will ultimately threaten polar bears everywhere.

The PBSG also recognized that threats to polar bears will occur at different rates and times across their range although warming induced habitat degradation and loss are already negatively affecting polar bears in some parts of their range. Subpopulations of polar bears face different combinations of human threats.  The PBSG recommends that jurisdictions take into account the variation in threats facing polar bears.

The PBSG noted polar bears suffer health effects from persistent pollutants.  At the same time, climate change appears to be altering the pathways by which such pollutants enter ecosystems. The PBSG encourages international efforts to evaluate interactions between climate change and pollutants.

The PBSG endorses efforts to develop non-invasive means of population assessment, and continues to encourage jurisdictions to incorporate capture and radio tracking programs into their national monitoring efforts. The members also recognized that aboriginal people are both uniquely positioned to observe wildlife and changes in the environment, and their knowledge is essential for effective management.

The PBSG recognizes that where habitats are stable, polar bears are a renewable resource, and reaffirmed its support of the right of aboriginal groups to harvest polar bears within sustainable limits.  The PBSG noted that the population of polar bears in Baffin Bay, shared between Greenland and Canada, may simultaneously be suffering from significant habitat change and substantial over harvest, while at the same time interpretations by scientists and local hunters disagree regarding population status.  Similarly, the Chukchi Sea polar bear population which is shared by Russia and the United States is likely declining due to illegal harvest in Russia and one of the highest rates of sea ice loss in the Arctic. Consistent with its past efforts to coordinate research and management among jurisdictions, the PBSG recommended that the polar bear populations in Baffin Bay and the Chukchi Sea be reassessed and that harvests be brought into balance with the current sustainable yield.

A variety of management changes have occurred since the PBSG last met in 2005.  The PBSG members were particularly pleased that quotas for the harvest of polar bears in Greenland were implemented in January 2006, and that quota reductions have been implemented in some parts of Greenland.  Also since the last meeting, the government of Nunavut reduced the harvest quota in Western Hudson Bay because of the documented population decline.

The PBSG reevaluated the status of the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears distributed over vast and relatively inaccessible areas of the Arctic. Despite the fact that much new information has been made available since the last meeting, knowledge of some populations is still poor.  Reviewing the latest information available the PBSG concluded that 1 of 19 subpopulations is currently increasing, 3 are stable and 8 are declining.  For the remaining 7 subpopulations available data were insufficient to provide an assessment of current trend.  The total number of polar bears is still thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000.  However, the mixed quality of information on the different subpopulations means there is much room for error in establishing that range.  That potential for error, given the ongoing and projected changes in habitats and other potential stressors is cause for concern.  Nonetheless, the PBSG is optimistic that humans can mitigate the effects of global warming and other threats to polar bears, and ensure that they remain a part of the Arctic ecosystem in perpetuity.

Dr. Erik Born from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources was elected as the new chairman of the group after Dr. Andrew Derocher from the University of Alberta, who has been serving as chair since 2005.

Well, there is that proclamation of optimism in the penultimate paragraph, that humans can mitigate threats to bears, including global warming.  Is that why they don’t want you to read it?

How are the polar bears?  They are in trouble.  The Polar Bear Specialist Group says we should help them out, that we can do things to save the bears.  Why would the “skeptics” not want us to know that?

Other resources:


Denialism doesn’t work: Polar bears still in trouble

February 9, 2009

Is there a climate change denialist blog that hasn’t tried to claim that the rest of the world is crazy, and that polar bears are in no danger at all?

As a tactic to save polar bears, denial doesn’t work.  Arctic Economics reports on research showing polar bears often go without food, a bad tactic for long-term survival.

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

You want that in English?  Sure:  Polar bears are starving to death because of climate change.  Shifts in the ice have ruined their hunting.

And, as often these days, I mention that here because it is one more case where “falsified data” or “badly placed measuring stations” can’t affect the outcome.  Polar bears don’t read The Economist. Last I checked ticket sales, no polar bear had ever seen Al Gore’s movie, let alone been misled by it.  It cannot be the case that polar bears starve because they believe hyped and false claims about global warming.  Polar bears starve because it’s really warmer.


Update, 3-5-2009 — One of the signs of insanity among warming disbelievers is their practice of censoring comments on their blogs, when the blog owner edits the comments of opponents to make them look silly and, importantly, to keep contrary views backed by reason from infecting the blog.

Dallas shows off dinosaurs on ice

October 7, 2008

Viewers of NOVA tonight get to see some of the pride of Dallas on display.  “Arctic Dinosaurs” documents the work of a paleontologist from the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science digging dinosaurs in or near the Arctic Circle.

NOVA takes viewers on an exciting Arctic trek as one team of paleontologists attempts a radical “dig” in northern Alaska, using explosives to bore a 60-foot tunnel into the permafrost in search of fossil bones. Both the scientists and the filmmakers face many challenges while on location, including plummeting temperatures and eroding cliffs prone to sudden collapse. Meanwhile, a second team of scientists works high atop a treacherous cliff to unearth a massive skull, all the while battling time, temperature, and voracious mosquitoes.

The hardy scientists shadowed in “Arctic Dinosaurs” persevere because they are driven by a compelling riddle: How did dinosaurs—long believed to be cold-blooded animals—endure the bleak polar environment and navigate in near-total darkness during the long winter months? Did they migrate over hundreds of miles of rough terrain like modern-day herds of caribou in search of food? Or did they enter a dormant state of hibernation, like bears? Could they have been warm-blooded, like birds and mammals? Top researchers from Texas, Australia, and the United Kingdom converge on the freezing tundra to unearth some startling new answers.

Tony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the Dallas museum, is one of the scientists featured in the NOVA production.  The film highlights the museum’s efforts to push science work as well as displays for the public.

Previously, the museum had relied on Texas volunteers to help unearth and mount displays on prehistoric creatures from Texas, under the direction of Charles Finsley, a venerable Texas geologist.  One one hand, it’s good to see the level of science kicked up a notch or two.  On the other hand, it was great to have such a high level outlet for amateur and future, volunteer scientists at a major  museum.

In any case, the PBS program demonstrates that science goes on in Texas despite foolish creationist eruptions from the State Board of Education.  Every piece of accurate information helps eclipse the anti-science leanings of education officials.



Update:  Wonderful program.  There’s a lot of good science, and a good deal of geography in the program.  Geography teachers may want to think about using this as supplement to anything dealing with Alaska, or the Arctic.

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