Monday, 27 August 2012

A new low in the Arctic

Arctic sea ice has hit a new record low according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSDIC), breaking the previous record low set in 2007.  This is widely seen as a signal for long term global warming. 
One of the most worrying points of the NSIDC press release is this quote from NSIDC Director  Mark Serreze "The previous record, set in 2007, occurred because of near perfect summer weather for melting ice. Apart from one big storm in early August, weather patterns this year were unremarkable. The ice is so thin and weak now, it doesn't matter how the winds blow."

This seems to be due to the loss of multiyear ice and the change to  thinner seasonal ice formation, which suggests that this trend of summer sea ice loss will continue and possibly accelerate leading to an ice free Arctic (at least seasonaly) in the not too distant future. 
This is very worrying as regards the methane clathrate, and also with regards to the effect on weather systems/oceanic currents which remain to be seen.

It seems to me that we are standing on the precipice, we may even be at a tipping point and yet we just "carry on as normal" I find this very difficult to understand. 

We have not adapted our infrastructure, we are drilling in the arctic.  Our politicians and the  oil executives cannot plead ignorance, yet beside a few heroic activists, where is the rage? 

Maybe I despair too much and maybe we will all somehow pull it together, only time will tell. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Not good at all.

This article in the Guardian is deeply disturbing.  It says that the dedicated CryoSat 2, has found that the rate of Arctic Summer sea ice loss is about 50% higher than most current scenarios suggested.  Part of the "surprise" is the dramatic thinning of the ice, which is now able to be accurately measured. 
With the loss of the white ice to reflect back some of the solar radiation, the area will warm faster.  With the recently reported plumes of methane already showing, the big, scary worry is a massive loss of methane to the atmosphere as in the "clathrate gun hypothesis", followed by how the warmer summer water will affect the Greenland ice sheet.   On a  different, but also worrying note the likely rush for oil, gas as the region becomes more accessible is likely to have a huge negative impact on the region and add more to our burden of greenhouse emissions.   

The arctic region has also offered a last sanctuary to some species of fish (like Cod), and as it opens up, we are likely to the usual overexploitation resulting in collapse. 

With Rosneft, Shell, Exxon, Chrevron, Statoil, Cairn and all the rest lining up, backed by the appropriate governments, the outlook does not appear rosy. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

A new front in the war

A new front has been opened in our war against the planet.  The government of Papua New Guinea has granted a 20 year extraction licence for deep sea mining to the Canadian firm Nautilus Minerals.  This will be the worlds first commercial deep sea mining operation and is being keenly observed by other interested parties. 
The Deep Sea Mining Campaign , a coalition against the operation, estimates that around 1m sq kilometres of seabed in the asia-pacific region is under exploration licence. 
According to a report in the Guardian,  the process will involve levelling underwater hydrothermal "chimmneys" which leak loads of minerals and then pumping the sediment to a ship for mineral extraction and then dropping the waste back onto the seabed. 

This could have a devastating effect on the local ecosystem
In our desire for metals, we could easily cause a disaster. 

Papua New Guinea has a rather unpleasant history concerning corporate access to and extraction of mineral resources.  One has only to look at Bougainville, with the, alleged deaths of more than 10,000 islanders to be reminded of how tragically these things can turn out.