I am not a professional climatologist, but I do have a degree in physics, and as per the average physicist, I prefer to do my own analysis and draw my own conclusions when it comes to anything involving the basic physical laws. Climatology is nothing more than a special branch of physics anyway.
Having done my own analysis, I have drawn my own conclusion which I am now presenting for your perusal. I don’t feel too much trepidation in case I’m wrong, because all the predictions from the most advanced computer modeling have all proven wrong, almost always as gross underestimations, so much so that worst-case-scenarios have repeatedly been exceeded, and “experts are stunned” and “worse than scientists have expected” have become the media catch-phrase. In fact, so far, I have yet to encounter a computer projection that has not grossly undershot the mark, or at least promised to do so some time in the future, mostly commonly the year 2100. So, the worst I can do is to be wrong like everybody else. Right now, I fear I’m right, but hope I’m wrong. (If I prove to be wrong some time in the future, I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with a perfectly reasonable explanation consistent to a T with the basic physical laws. 🙂
In 2008/2009, Vancouver experienced one of the coolest winters ever, which led skeptics to again say, “Global warming? What global warming?” My conclusion, on the other hand, is that this is explainable, and even predictable by the basic physical laws. It is supposed to cool off, stupid. But considering that it will last only 3-4 years, Vancouverites should enjoy the Arctic air-conditioning while it is still working, because as of the end of 2012 or thereabouts, it will konk out.
Without this natural air-conditioning, people will crank their artificial air-conditioning even more, which will inject even more CO2 into the atmosphere, which will warm the atmosphere even more. All in all, the current cooling “trend” will end. Global warming will accelerate, and the Northern Hemisphere will be hugely impacted. The United States, for example, will soon be hit by an unprecedented continental drought with no end in sight.
I will state below my line of reasoning in as simple a language as possible, with no math involved.
Fact 1: The melting rate of Arctic ice, both on land and in the sea, has been accelerating in recent years, with 2005 and 2006 being steep, and 2007 and 2008 being precipitous.
Fact 2: Since 2003, the planet has lost over 2 trillion tonnes of land ice, and many times that of sea ice.
Fact 3: Before the 2007 Big Melt, computer models used to predict that the Arctic summer would 50% ice-free come 2050; but since 2008, the time-line has been drastically shortened to 100% ice-free as early as 2013. Some still cautiously say 2030, but a few years’ difference in the time-scale of geological change is little more than a split-second or two. If it’s 2030 instead of 2013, then it will hit in the 2020s instead of in 2012. But it will come, and right now, the safe time frame to use is 2013.
Fact 4: The latest estimate has it that the Arctic winter could be ice-free as early as 2040.
Fact 5: The heat to melt the ice of course comes ultimately from the sun, but it is provided to the ice mostly through the water which is warmed by solar heat. This is especially so as of the advent of the Albedo Effect resulting from the decrease in heat-reflecting sea ice and increase in the darker, solar-heat-absorbing sea water.
Fact 6: The Latent Heat of Melting/Fusion of water is about 80 calories per gram of ice to be melted. To melt the 2 trillion tonnes of land ice alone lost since 2003 absorbed 160 quintillion calories (160 with 18 zeros after it, or 160 billion billion calories) from the planet’s climatic system – without the air temperature being increased, and in fact, somewhat decreased. Melting almost half of the pre-21st-Century Arctic sea ice in the last decade absorbed even more, times more.
The last point needs some explaining. Let’s go to the kitchen and perform an experiment. Take a steel cooking pot and fill it half full with cold water. Add enough ice cubes into the pot to raise the water level to almost full. Insert an electric heating element (e.g the kind used in aquariums) and a thermometer into the water, and mount a second thermometer outside of the pot within an inch of the pot’s surface. Crank the heater up to full and stir the water constantly with the thermometer while monitoring the readings of both thermometers by 30 second intervals. The result will be as follows:
As long as the water is well stirred, the water temperature will lower to a little above 0C/32F, and it will stay there for as long as there is still ice in the pot to melt. The air temperature around and above the pot will decrease, because the melting ice absorbs heat both from the heated water and from the warmer air around the pot. Adding another heater will increase the ice-melt rate, but it will not increase the water temperature much over 0C/32F, until all the ice has melted off. After that, if the heater is kept on, the temperature both of the water and the air around the pot will rise (until the water begins to boil, when its temperature will stabilize at 100C/212F until it is boiled off).
The amount of heat required to melt all the ice – without the temperature of the water rising – is the Latent Heat of Melting (or of Fusion in case of freezing when the latent heat is released) of that quantity of ice to be melted (or frozen). For water, the latent heat of melting/fusion is about 80 calories per gram.
If the prediction that the Arctic summer will be ice-free as of 2013 is accurate, the Great Heat will begin shortly before 2013, as in 2012, since the less the remaining sea ice left to be melted, the less latent heat of melting it will absorb, thus leaving it in the climatic system to contribute to global warming.
The Arctic-summer becoming ice-free will constitute the first of the one-two climatic punch. The second will kick in when the Arctic begins to be ice-free even in the winter.
Since the summers of 2007 and 2008 registered the fastest ice-melt, they also registered the largest absorption of the Latent Heat of Melting from the Arctic atmosphere, thus cooling it more than usual. Temporarily, but enough to precipitate a cool 2008/2009 winter.
Vancouver’s 2008/2009 winter was amongst the snowiest on record. This resulted from a collision of cold and warm fronts, the former dry and the latter moist. Warm air can “hold” much more water than cold air. If the warm, moisture-laden southern air collides with the cold northern air, it will be cooled, its dew point raised and whatever excess water it cannot “hold” will be precipitated as rain or snow, the more the cooling of the warm air by the cold, the heavier the precipitation. Sounds very much like Vancouver’s winter of 2008/2009.
As of 2012, however, when there is no more ice to be melted in the summer, the previously absorbed “latent” heat will become manifest as measurable heat, and the temperatures of both the Arctic ocean and the Arctic atmosphere will rise. As the ice mass continues to decline towards the eventual zero in the winter, the faster will the temperature rise. But well before zero, all may already have been lost.
Since cold fronts will be severely curtailed, and since the air will be warmer, more moisture will stay in the atmosphere unprecipitated. This will start a drying trend on the ground that will be extremely extensive in both the East and West halves of the Northern Hemisphere all the way from the North Pole down to the Equator.
Where North America is concerned, since the cold Arctic air will have withdrawn northward, so will the cold-front/warm-front collisions, and the precipitation will shift due north. This will make Canada wetter and the United States drier. The current dual drought-centers of California and Georgia will expand and merge. The agricultural capacity of the US will plummet. Food will be scarce. Dare I say that the US, as Ethiopia before it, will experience a serious food crisis and perhaps malnutrition and even starvation?
And this has not yet even taken into consideration a very frightening factor – Methane.
Currently, even at a global average temperature rise of less than 1C/1.6F since 1880 (the beginning of the Industrial Revolution), the permafrost in northern Europe, Canada, Alaska and especially Russia has already begun to melt, as has the submarine methane hydrate/clathrate deposits on the shelves of the Arctic Ocean. This releases vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere. With the exhaustion of sea ice, the temperature will certainly rise, the permafrost and hydrate/clathrate melting rates will increase, and the methane will be released into the atmosphere at an accelerated rate.
Methane (CH4), being more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) by far (20-70 X), it will warm up the atmosphere even faster, and generate its own feedback loop, where more methane in the atmosphere will melt more permafrost and release even more methane. There has always been a certain amount of methane in the atmosphere due to organic decomposition, but since methane is a fairly short-lived molecule, its breakdown and emission rates have always struck an easy balance, where the methane actually helped the CO2 in keeping the atmosphere warm enough for life to flourish. But as of the year 2000, two things have occurred:
1. the methane concentration globally has been steady for decades but now it is on the rise, and
2. the methane concentration on the Arctic region is higher than in the lower lattitudes.
This means 1. that the methane emission rate is increasing and is now overwhelming the breakdown rate, and 2. that the extra methane is being emitted from the Arctic. Bear in mind that this is with the ice chilling the air. Imagine what when there is no more ice to cool anything.
This further means to me that the methane feedback loop has already kicked in, and it will spiral exponentially out of control once the Arctic ice is gone, or maybe just nearly gone. Unless we can arrest this methane feedback loop at this opening stage, we will lose control of it. Some have even given it a name: the Methane Time-Bomb, of which CO2 is only the fuse.
I have myself given it a name: the M-Bomb – where the A-Bomb was in terms of kilotons (thousand tons equivalent of TNT), the H-Bomb in terms of megatons (million tons), and the M-Bomb in terms of gigatons (billion tons of carbon) or even terratons (trillion tons), the latter meaning that the M-Bomb itself is exponential.
2012 is widely believed to be the predestined year for the End of the World – December 21 to be exact – according to the Mayan calendar, Christian prophesies and even the I Ching. And it is indeed amazing that if the M-Bomb – the real Doomsday Machine – is to be detonated, December 21, 2012 would be a very plausible date of detonation.
When people speculate about the December 21, 2012, End of the World phenomenon, they often talk about an asteroid strike. Bam! and it’s all over. The M-Bomb, infinitely more probable than an asteroid strike on the exact date of December 21, 2021, is a “slow bomb” whose explosion will span decades or even centuries. But if the detonation date is December 21, 2012, and if once detonated the M-Bomb is unstoppable, then it will still mean the beginning of the End of the World.
Again, I hope I’m wrong but fear I’m right. But one thing I know for certain. If we carry on with our current trajectory, including even all of President Obama’s stimulation packages, perhaps partly because of some of them, we would be dooming ourselves, our children’s children and life on Earth.
What we as a species must do:
1. Terminate the use of combustion-energy technology ASAP, including shutting down the Alberta tar sands (see http://www.youtube.com/AnthonyMarr) once and for all.
2. Massively research and develop the alternative, non-combustion-energy technologies, ones massive enough to be capable of taking over from the combustion-energy technologies within a decade.
3. Reduce the human population growth rate to below zero.
4. Substantially reduce the per-capita standard of living (as different from the quality of life) of the currently rich and high-living “developed” nations, especially regarding the consumption of the finite resources.
5. Strict protection of all remaining wild terrestrial habitats (forests, wetlands, etc.) and species.
6. Strict protection of the oceans and all marine ecosystems.
7. Extensively research and develop Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technologies to actively reduce the carbon concentration to below 350 ppm (from today’s 386 ppm).
8. Major terraforming to recool the planet.
If any of the above is not met, we may not make it.
Will we make it?
My cosmic friend Raminothna (see my two books) told me to make a pyramid with 5 round rocks – 4 for the base and the 5th as the apex. She then asked me to write on a piece of paper the following words: “We will NOT make it.” She then instructed me to crunch the paper into a ball and have it inserted into the pyramid.
Then she said to me, “If you are destined to not make it, nothing will happen to the paper ball. But if you are destined to make it, a Cosmic Hand of Destiny will reach into the pyramid before sunrise and reduce the paper-ball to ashes.”
It was a very long night, but within seconds of the sunrise, a “cosmic hand of destiny” did reach into the pyramid, with a lighted match, and reduced the paper ball to ashes. And in the first rays of the rising sun, I regarded this hand, which was my own.
Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)