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2007 will go down in history as the year the Arctic icecap collapsed. The NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Date Center) is making available real time images of the Arctic Ice Cap which show the icecap shrinking dramatically below it's normal minimum summer area. Here is the report for Sept 10, 2007:

Sea ice extent continues to decline, and is now at 4.24 million square kilometers (1.63 million square miles), falling yet further below the previous record absolute minimum of 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles) that occurred on September 20–21, 2005.

Record low icecap extent on Sept 10, 2007


More below ...

The image below shows the current (Sept 10, 2007) extent of the Arctic Ice Cap.  The magenta line indicates the normal extent of the icecap at it's summer minimum for the last 30 years. As you can see the current icecap area  is far below the normal area.  And it's still shrinking!


The graph shows the current area of the Arctic icecap compared to previous years. The 2007 icecap is reduced by 40% from it's normal area!


View the historical data using Google Earth
Check it out in Google Earth. Open this file in Google Earth to see a time based animation of the icecap's extent. Use the time slider to see the normal Arctic summers from 1978 to 2006.  This animation was obtained from the NSIDC Google Earth page. Take a look to see this and much other data about the state of the cryosphere.

Real time View of the Arctic
You can also see the extent of the Arctic ice cap in real time directly in Google Earth. The image below is being updated everyday.

Opening of the Northwest Passage
The retreat of the icecap has opened up the fabled  Northwest Passage  for the first time!

On August 21, 2007 the Northwest Passage became open to ships without the need of an icebreaker. According to Nalan Koc of the Norwegian Polar Institute this is the first time since they began keeping records in 1972.

(high res)

Northwest Passage - 'Open for Business'
This has fueled speculation this the shift from global warming will open up the Arctic for business. From the Canadian National Post

Just a week after Canada and the U.S. agreed to disagree over the ownership of the Northwest Passage, this summer's record melt of Arctic sea ice has unlocked the fabled polar shipping route more completely than ever before, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center has announced.

"It's open," Mark Serreze, a senior scientist with research institute based in Boulder, Colo., said in an interview Tuesday. "It's unprecedented. Theoretically you could take a ship from Tokyo through the Northwest Passage to Boston. Not an easy sail, not a Sunday cruise, but it has started to happen."

Like the  projected melting of the glaciers in Glacier National Park in the next 20 years, this latest event is unprecedented and adds to the evidence that global warming is happening much faster than anyone expected.

Rapid melting not just in the Arctic
Like the Arctic, the glaciers of north america are melting at unprecendented rates. Listen to Dan Fagre, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey discuss the fate of the glacier's in Glacier National Park.

"The namesake glaciers for Glacier National Park are disappearing rapidly," he said.  "Especially in the last several decades.  These glaciers that numbered 150 when the park was first formed are now less than 27." More than 7,000 years ago, glaciers 900 to 1,500 meters thick covered this landscape.  The constant ice flow carved out these jagged peaks and deep valleys. Now, Dan Fagre says the remaining glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. He blames global warming. "One glacier by itself can not invoke climate change.  But, when you have all the glaciers in almost all of the mountain ranges of the entire globe responding the same way, then you know you have global phenomena.  And in this case, the glaciers are responding to warming."

Fagre says if the current melting trend continues all of the glaciers will be gone within 20 years.

The Park formerly know as Glacier

By the way, I was in Glacier National Park this summer and I could not find a single reference to the rapidly melting glaciers in the park bookstores.  When I asked a park ranger if they had any books on global warming or on it's effect on Glacier, I was told that for the last 7 years, they have been forbidden to discuss this with tourists because it is controversial!  

Amazingly, the park bookstore does not carry a single book on the glaciers of the park. It has apparently has been purged of all but the most cursory references to the glaciers in Glacier National Park. This is apparently intentional to avoid having to admit that the glaciers no longer exist they way they used to and that they will in fact soon be only a memory.

Sobering to realize that the very weather is not controlled solely by the whims of the gods, but also by the accidents of man.

Originally posted to kosblt on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:15 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  I'll tell them I did my best (10+ / 0-)

      but it wasn't good enough.  

      I'll tell them that their grandma agreed back in 02 to use a hybrid to commute with, even though she felt less safe in it than she did in the van we traded in for it - making her an authentic environmental hero.  But it wasn't good enough.

      I'll tell them that we recycled to the point that we only took a garbage bag of trash to the dump every three weeks.  But it wasn't good enough.

      I'll tell them that I worked my ass off without pay for 6 years to get Democrats elected so that they could, for the barest of starters, raise auto fuel efficiency standards to levels that would make a difference down the road - and Democrats were elected, by God.  But it wasn't good enough.

      I'll tell them I quit that fucking mealy-mouthed party when it became apparent in 07 that they were more intent on expanding their power than in actually altering the Washington dynamics that got us into that series of catastrophes, and that I'm sorry it took me so long to wake up to the fact that politics itself was fatally broken and that we were really just on our own all along.

      Of course, that's all assuming they and I will be around to talk to each other in 10 or 20 years.

      "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

      by nailbender on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:43:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Took Survey apparently for Hillary (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat, cumberland sibyl

        and it listed all the current issues, but not climate change/global warming.  It just said "environment".  It only had one question for what I felt was important - and you could only choose one.  It had about ten or more questions asking if I'd contribute to her campaign and when.  I put "Never".  Then I had a small space to write-in some things.  For Presidential choice, I wrote "Al Gore" each and every time.  When I couldn't write in, I went with John Edwards, although to be honest none has inspired me, but at Edwards is talking about some important issues - but easy to do when you're not an elected official anymore.
        In another spot, I wrote how Hillary wasn't showing leadership, but ambition.  Show me some leadership!  Put on the Big Girl panties and let's see you take a firm, solid stand on Iraq, convince others to follow your lead.  THAT's Leadership.  I don't expect her to tackle Global Warming as apparently the Clintons and Gores don't get along well, so why would I vote for her?  I want more than just a woman President.  I want a Great Woman President.

    •  the last phrase in your diary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      should read "the wiles of man," if you want to slam it home.

      "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

      by nailbender on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:45:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That I tried, but was arrested by secret police (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I will tell them, if I survive, that standing up to Bush Cheney was very difficult, given the advent of non-governmental militias and the advent of the police state my grandkids find themselves living in. We now have the FBI grilling guys observed in a coffee shop reading news articles critical of Faux News. That for me has become emblematic in the past two weeks of how close to a police state Bush Cheney has brought this nation.

  •  This ice cap story needs front-paging (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paulie200, Rogneid, StrayCat

    here and throughout the blogosphere.  Christ knows Katie, Charlie, Brian and Jim won't lead with it.  And don't get me started on Chuckles the Rose.

  •  I am having trouble getting the animations to (0+ / 0-)


    Strength Through Peace

    by penguinsong on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:40:27 PM PDT

    •  animation help (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Sorry I guess you need to be a bit of an expert in Google Earth to show the animation.

      To see the animation -
      After you open the Google Earth link link

      First open the folder in 'Temporary Places' called 'Arctic Ice Extent'

      Then check the box next to Ice and Snow to display the ice cap imagery.

      Then in the upper left corner of the screen  , click on the little play button shaped like an arrow |>

      This should cycle the animation. Click again to stop. If you use the time slider you can select any year.

  •  Yes, it's a big deal (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Rogneid, harrietshubby

    Probably more meaningful in the scope of  history than another general lying to congress.

  •  You forestalled my comment (5+ / 0-)

    about the Northwest Passage...

    It's hard to impress on the unaware just how serious this news is - it's a desperate, terrifying crisis, and it raises barely a ripple in public opinion. It's a car by a cliff, running towards the edge. It's the letter that cuts off your credit and health coverage. It is the Cuban missile crisis in an alternative history, where the end result is megadeath.

    I just hope I can tell my grandkids... (and my daughter is married already...)

  •  "accidents of man?" (0+ / 0-)

    great diary, highly rec'd, but when I started reading that last sentence, I thought "wiles of man" was coming.  That would have slammed it home for me.

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

    by nailbender on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:50:48 PM PDT

    •  Well I could edit it (0+ / 0-)

      but then how would I explain your comment.
      How is this?

      Sobering to realize that the very weather is not controlled solely by the whims of the gods, but also by the whiles of man.

      •  Well (0+ / 0-)
        Someone might be so rude as to point out that it might not be justified from the data to imply that mankind was intentionally warming the climate and melting the ice cap,  but it would capture that tone of breathless hysteria that usually accompanies such stories.

        "Good idea Chuck, but Syrup won't stop 'em." Firesign Theater, Everything You Know is Wrong.

        by 3card on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 11:51:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Considering the consequences... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          a little hysterical breathlessness is in order.

          But I do understand that some people would prefer to wait for the more technical post mortem studies of species extinctions, economic systems crushed and lives lost before drawing any sort of hasty hysterical conclusions.

          •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)
            Why is it that the first to decry fearmongering and the political manipulation of science (or intelligence) from the right wingers, neo-cons, and bible thumpers are willing to accept it from supporters of a cause they support.

            I understand the temptation but it hurts the cause of good science and good policy.  Chaps my ass big time.

            "Good idea Chuck, but Syrup won't stop 'em." Firesign Theater, Everything You Know is Wrong.

            by 3card on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 12:48:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bullshit to you too. (0+ / 0-)

              The science tells us there are potential, even likely, catastrophic consequences in the not too distant future.

              What, if anything, is the appropriate attitude and response to the above?

              You've established that you feel  "hysterical breathlessness" isn't good, nor is "fearmongering" (likened to that done by the right wingers, neo-cons all.) So what, my fellow kossack, should we think?

              Let me hand you a little mental talc for your chapped ass:  We are all human beings, and if you are going to be on some Quixotic purity crusade to calibrate everyone's views to the proper (or rather your) viewpoint, it would chap everyone's ass less if you dropped the attitude.

              •  Bullshit squared (0+ / 0-)
                The issues are serious.  If you squander credibility by making unsubstantiated claims, cherry picking and misinterpreting data, and fearmongering you make it more difficult to reach real solutions to real problems.  Given the stakes, nothing less than sound science and sound policy are acceptable.

                Otherwise you might as well go stand on the hill with the Millerites.

                "Good idea Chuck, but Syrup won't stop 'em." Firesign Theater, Everything You Know is Wrong.

                by 3card on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 05:35:19 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  man, the site is going nuts right now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    posts are vanishing and reappearing and the entire diary drops out at times.

    Sorry for the double post about your last phrase, I thought the first one I posted was lost, then it reappeared after I posted the second one.

    Anyway, Great diary.  

    Very scary situation we have gotten ourselves into.

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

    by nailbender on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:57:30 PM PDT

  •  It's Gore's fault (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    None of this would have happened if he had not invented global warming.

    I hope Democrats are more careful about the kind of issues they raise in the future.

    The cheapest energy is always the best and more energy used the better off the human race is.

    We shall overcome, someday.

    by Sam Wise Gingy on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 11:26:58 PM PDT

  •  Henry Hudson must be turning ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, Paulie200, kosblt

    ...over in his (presumably watery) grave. Exactly 400 years ago, in September 1607, he had to return to Holland because he couldn't find a way through the ice in his effort to find a northern route to "Cathay." Two years later, he couldn't find the Northeast Passage above Russia to Asia. And two years after that, the spring of 1611, his mutinous crew put him, his son and a few other crew members adrift in James Bay, after his final voyage failed to find the Northwest Passage.

    "When shifting paradigms, it is important to put in the clutch." -- Patricia Limerick

    by Meteor Blades on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 11:33:34 PM PDT

    •  Gives a new meaning to the phrase 'new world' (0+ / 0-)

      I expect the next 400 years will see quite a bit more of the earth's changing. Any climate projections I've seen that go out as far as 2407 are pretty dire.

      But who knows, in 400 years a lot can happen. Maybe we will have a re-thinking of our current insular belief systems. It is possible that we, collectively will develop a new world view that values facts, experiments and results over blind faith and authoritarian-obedience.  Perhaps then we will be able to control the runaway  thermal hell that waits.  What would they call that? Perhaps the 'age of reason'.

      •  Maybe. But none of "we" will be ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming

        ...around to see it. Even the Iroquois nations who choose to only make major decisions look ahead a mere seven generations.

        "When shifting paradigms, it is important to put in the clutch." -- Patricia Limerick

        by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 12:34:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good presentation... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, cumberland sibyl

    well done , clear with effective stats and graphics.  

    Who knew there was a National Snow and Ice Data Center?  I didn't and probably not the White House, since these folks seem to still be able to publish "bad news."

    Thanks kosblt.

  •  Earthquakes in Greenland (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, marina, 3card, NeuvoLiberal, StrayCat

    Scientists fear ice caps melting faster than predicted

    Paul Brown in Ilulissat
    Friday September 7, 2007
    Guardian Unlimited

    The Greenland ice cap is melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off.


    The glacier at Ilulissat, which supposedly spawned the iceberg that sank the Titantic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it was 10 years ago.


    Today leaders of Christian, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and Jewish religions took a boat to the tongue of the glacier for a silent prayer for the planet. They were invited by Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.

    "You can't be neutral on a moving train." - Howard Zinn

    by bigchin on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 11:56:50 PM PDT

  •  Nice work. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3card, StrayCat, bigchin

    A recent hypotheses of mine is that CO2's impact is the greatest in regions close to the freezing temperature of water O(C) (which is clearly the case in places where ice is melting.)

    The conjecture comes from what I have recently read about CO2's absorption bands. Peak wavelengths of black body radiation emitted by bodies near 0(C) seem to fall in one of CO2's dominant absorption bands. I need to take a close look  to verify this rigorously.

    This effect, if established, would be yet another positive feedback along with the following ones:

    1. loss of albedo (reflectivity) from the melting of the ice layer
    1. likely release of CO2 during the melting process

    Together, these may explain a lot empirical findings:

    1. sea ice extent shrinking
    1. glaciers retreating
    1. ice sheets loosening

    Thanks for posting. Once I setup google earth I'll check out the links you gave.

  •  yes, but then of course (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, 3card

    we also have the melting of the frozen peat in Siberia - a carbon de-sequestration which releases methane.

    thought to contain some 70 billion tonnes of methane, a quarter of all the land-stored methane on the planet

    more: here, here, here, here, here

    of course, it dropped off the radar promptly after 2005 ... guess it's 15 seconds were up

    and while

    Scientists aren’t quite sure whether methane or carbon dioxide is worse.   Methane [being] far more powerful in trapping heat ... only lasts about a decade before it dissipates into carbon dioxide and other chemicals.   Carbon dioxide traps heat for about a century.

    the problem of a positive feedback loop seems like a biggy

    of course, maybe the bogs'll dry out as they warm, in which case

    the methane will oxidise and escape into the air as carbon dioxide. But if the bogs remain wet, as is the case in western Siberia today, then the methane will be released straight into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

    In May this year, Katey Walter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told a meeting in Washington of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that she had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia, where the gas was bubbling from thawing permafrost so fast it was preventing the surface from freezing, even in the midst of winter.

    "There is no limit to what you can do if you have the power to change the rules." -Josh Marshall

    by grollen on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 02:53:09 AM PDT

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