Sea Ice

#ClimateChange “All Hell will break loose!” #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

When will we listen to the scientists?

To invest in new coal mines and ignore science is Criminal Negligence.

It is putting our children and future generations at extreme risk.

People all over the planet are demanding change.

We must declare a CLIMATE EMERGENCY

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Freezing your ass off #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Freezing Your Ass Off Is Also a Symptom of Climate Change

The connection between a melting Arctic and frigid temperatures on the East Coast.

Clearing snow in Norfolk, Massachusetts as a major winter storm hit. Image: EPA/MATT CAMPBELL

How cold is it?

Cold enough to freeze an iguana in Palm Beach. Officials have warned residents of South Florida to look out for cold-stunned lizards falling from trees.

Meanwhile, 6,000 kilometers to the north, the Arctic has less sea ice than at any time in the 37 years that satellites have been measuring ice coverage. And while most of eastern North America is expected to be even colder by Friday, with temperatures set to plunge, Juneau, Alaska, will be a relatively balmy 6℃ (42℉).

What about climate change?

The fact that it is cold today in Palm Springs and warm in Juneau is weather.

Climate is long-term trends—years—of weather. And one of those trends is increased extreme weather, including winters too warm to ski and winters too cold to go outside.

Every winter, an extremely cold pool of air forms over the Arctic and is normally trapped in the polar vortex, a gigantic circular weather pattern around the North Pole. But the vortex is weakening, allowing the Arctic air pool to escape south when conditions are right. Researchers now believe it is the combination of a warmer Arctic and the loss of sea ice, along with a strong west-coast ridge of high pressure, that allows the polar vortex jailbreak.

Read More: TV Weathercasters Are Being Recruited to Convince People Climate Change Is Real

Climate change is heating up the Arctic far faster than anywhere else in the world.

The ice covering the Arctic Ocean has shrunk rapidly—50 percent of the summer ice extent disappeared in just the last 20 years. Without its ice cover, the Arctic Ocean is warming, especially under 24 hours of sunlight in summer. Warmer water means there is less ice even in winter, when there is 24 hours of darkness.

While it was record-breakingly cold on New Year’s Eve in parts of eastern North America, the Arctic Ocean broke a different record, with a whopping 1.35 million square kilometers less sea ice—an area the size of Texas, California, and Minnesota combined—than the 1981 to 2010 median.

Researchers have now linked the loss of sea ice in the Arctic region, along with an increase in snow cover in northern Asia, to a weaker polar vortex. This allows the Arctic air pool to escape south into North America or Europe and Asia, they found. But this doesn’t happen every winter: Last winter was the seventh warmest on record in the US. Turns out it takes “two to tango,” Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, told me via email.

When the Pacific Ocean is warm off the west coast of North America, as it is now, it strengthens a high-pressure ridge of air on the west coast. That’s led to record-breaking heat from California to Alaska over the past few weeks. The east side (or downstream side) of that high-pressure ridge is also a lot stronger, almost acting like a vacuum, sucking the Arctic air pool south away from a weakened polar vortex.

This ‘scenario is believed to have exacerbated the persistent warmth and drought in the western United States, along with cold spells in the east during the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 that were popularized as the ridiculously resilient ridge and polar vortex, Francis wrote in a new study.

When California had record-breaking warm temperatures last fall, Jonathan Martin, a professor of meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, suspected the conditions would be right for an extended cold snap in the east in early winter. “It’s colder than normal but not unusual. We’ve gotten used to milder winters,” Martin told me.

Martin has been tracking the size of the Arctic air pool during winter and discovered that it has started to shrink. Four of the five smallest cold pools on record have occurred since 2004, he found, which parallels the loss of Arctic sea ice and the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. “My guess is that this year’s pool will be smaller than last year,” he said.

A view towards the Freedom Tower in Manhattan, obscured by snow. Image: Kaleigh Rogers

That means there is less cold air to go around. So while it might be bitterly cold in the eastern US right now, the northern hemisphere as whole is 0.9℃ warmer than normal, while the Arctic is 3.2℃ hotter.

The cold temperatures might not be exceptional, but the winds kicked up by what’s been dubbed Winter Storm Grayson will make it dangerous because of the wind chill, warns Martin. Not to mention the dangers of temporarily stunned, cold-chilled iguanas falling from trees.

Press link for more: Motherboard.vice.com

A look back on 2017 Deadly Extremes #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

From America’s hurricanes to Portugal’s fires, ABC Weather looks back at 2017’s deadly extremes

ABC Weather By Kate Doyle and Ben Deacon

Posted 25 minutes ago

Fri 29 Dec 2017, 6:25am

PHOTO: A helicopter dumps water on a burning house in the Anaheim Hills during October’s California fires. (AP: Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register)

Cyclones, bushfires and heatwaves are typically Australian natural disasters, but in 2017 devastating fires, record heat, hurricanes and typhoons — what we call cyclones — struck around the world.

Here are a few of the events that caught our attention this year.

Cyclone Debbie

It was the cyclone that just kept on going.

Debbie made landfall near Airlie Beach as a category 4 system on March 28 with wind gusts of 263 kilometres per hour recorded at Hamilton Island, the highest gust ever recorded in the Queensland digital climate archive, and its initial impact was ferocious.

But what set Debbie apart from the average cyclone was the trail of drenching rain it left as its remnants made their way down the Queensland coast and across the New South Wales border.

In an historic move, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk closed all schools south of Agnes Water, north of Bundaberg, and east of Nanango in the South Burnett region, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: SES workers rescue a man from floodwaters in Lismore (ABC News)

The flooding did not stop at the border as far south in Lismore, NSW, 324.8 millimetres fell in 18 hours, leading to the highest river levels since 1974 and waist-high flooding in the CBD when the town’s levee breached.

Media reports attributed nine deaths to Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia.

Debbie did not just leave it at that, as New Zealand’s North Island was drenched when the tail end of the system made its way across the Tasman a week after it first made landfall in Queensland.

Thousands of homes were evacuated there as well.

Pakistan record heat

In May, there was a major heat event which affected most of the Persian Gulf but seemed to go largely under the radar in western media.

The town of Turbat in south-west Pakistan recorded 54.0 degrees Celsius, equal to the maximum temperature recorded in Mitrabah, Kuwait in July last year.

Neither of the temperatures have been officially confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation, but if it turns out to be legitimate will be a new Asian record.

These record high temperatures stir up debate around the global highest recorded temperature.

The current record of 56.7C taken in Death Valley, USA, in 1913 is viewed with scepticism because of dubious equipment.

Likewise the eastern hemisphere record of 55.0 recorded in Kebili, Tunisia, is also questionable due to inconsistencies in previous temperature recording practices.

So it could well be that the hottest temperature directly recorded on Earth happened this year.

Australia’s official hottest temperature was recorded at Oodnadatta in 1960 at 50.7 degrees Celsius.

US hurricane cluster

Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, and Maria — the US was battered by hurricane after hurricane this year.

Of these, Harvey, Irma and Maria did the most damage.

3 hurricanes threatening land simultaneously in the W Atlantic Basin. Never seen anything like this in the modern record #Irma #Jose

Harvey led the pack as the first major hurricane to hit the mainland US in almost a decade when it stalled over Houston and led to widespread, devastating flooding.

Hurricane Irma, even stronger than Harvey, battered the Caribbean before travelling across Cuba, to make landfall in Florida.

What made Irma special meteorologically was the length of time it maintained extremely high wind speeds, more than 297km/h for 37 hours, far and away the highest ever recorded.

Maria’s biggest impact was on Puerto Rico, where US media reports suggest the death toll was at least 48 people.

As of early December, around one million people on the island were still without power, more than two months after the hurricane ripped through on September 20.

East Africa drought

UN data suggests there are more than 15.2 million people who remain severely food insecure on the horn of Africa as of December 8.

Some parts received decent rain in October and November this year but it will take time for those benefits to trickle through, especially when coupled with other conflicts.

For other areas, this will be the fourth consecutive year the rains have failed.

As with many of the other events on this list, the question of whether climate change is to blame has been raised and, as with many other events, the answers are complicated.

Extreme cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are expected to be less common because of climate change, but could be worse when they do hit because of their increased capacity to dump more rain and rising oceans.

Likewise, extreme fires are expected to be worsened by higher temperatures and longer fire seasons.

With the East African drought though, the role of climate change is not definitive.

Portugal fires

Portugal suffered two major rounds of deadly fires this year, one in June and one in October.

The July fires led to 62 deaths and the October fires killed more than 40 people.

The July fires took place during a heatwave when there were several days in a row above 40C.

The October fires were whipped up by the passing of Hurricane Ophelia.

The unusually placed storm was in the area thanks its formation much further north east than a normal Atlantic hurricane, combined with a run-in with the mid-latitude jet stream. It made a beeline for Ireland rather than taking the typical route and heading for the Americas.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Rare fire devil on camera in Portugal (ABC News)

As with the Californian fires later in the year, there has been speculation that introduced eucalypts contributed to the rapid spread of these fires.

South Asia floods

It was reported that more than 1,300 people died in the flooding that hit India, Bangladesh and Nepal in mid-August this year.

These fires were not just significant because Ellen DeGeneres and Paris Hilton’s homes were evacuated, the fires in early October led to tens of thousands of people being forced to flee their homes and more than 40 people lost their lives.

Entire suburbs were reduced to rubble.

Firefighters faced the impossible task of fighting 14 fires at once in gusts of up to 120km/h with low relative humidity.

The fires were fanned by what are known as the ‘Diablo’ winds in Northern California.

Like their more well-known Southern Californian counterpart, the Santa Ana winds, they come from over the continent bringing hot dry conditions.

Diablo winds are traditionally associated with wildfires, especially in autumn.

Victoria storms

Although many in Melbourne were underwhelmed by the much-publicised December storms, there was no denying the rainfall totals in north-east Victoria were record-breaking.

Echuca, Euroa and Eildon all recorded their highest daily rainfall totals on record.

Rainfall Totals

Location Rainfall (mm) Duration of Records (years)

Echuca. 123 159

Euroa. 146. 132

Eildon. 149. 131

Record breaking rainfall totals recorded in the 24 hours to 9 am December 21 2017

The storm set off debate surrounding natural disaster messaging in Australia and is a timely reminder to be prepared heading into the traditional summer disaster period.

Philippines typhoon and landslides

On December 16, Tropical Storm Kia-tak — known locally as Urduja — made landfall in the Philippines.

Severe flooding and landsides were triggered when two months of rain fell in 48 hours.

Less than two weeks later, Typhoon Tembin — also known as Typhoon Vinta — hit the Philippines.

So far, more than 250 people are confirmed dead as a result of the storm.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Landslides kill 32 in storm-hit Philippine province (ABC News)

Central Australian floods

Technically during the dying days of 2016, but close enough that we thought it warranted a mention, the flooding rains that hit central Australia on Christmas night were described as a once in a half-century storm by the Bureau of Meteorology.

In Kintore 61.4mm fell between 8:00pm and 9:00pm alone, and 232mm fell in the 24 hours after 9:00am on Christmas Day.

The widespread flooding closed the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and several locations were cut off for weeks.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

Climate Change is happening faster than expected! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate Change Is Happening Faster Than Expected, and It’s More Extreme

Scientists warned in 2017 that not enough has been done to protect millions of people from an expected increase in dangerous heat waves. Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

In the past year, the scientific consensus shifted toward a grimmer and less uncertain picture of the risks posed by climate change.

When the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its 5th Climate Assessment in 2014, it formally declared that observed warming was “extremely likely” to be mostly caused by human activity.

This year, a major scientific update from the United States Global Change Research Program put it more bluntly: “There is no convincing alternative explanation.”

Other scientific authorities have issued similar assessments:

• The Royal Society published a compendium of how the science has advanced, warning that it seems likelier that we’ve been underestimating the risks of warming than overestimating them.

• The American Meteorological Society issued its annual study of extreme weather events and said that many of those it studied this year would not have been possible without the influence of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said recent melting of the Arctic was not moderating and was more intense than at any time in recorded history.

While 2017 may not have hit a global temperature record, it is running in second or third place, and on the heels of records set in 2015 and 2016. Talk of some kind of “hiatus” seems as old as disco music.

‘A Deadly Tragedy in the Making’

Some of the strongest warnings in the Royal Society update came from health researchers, who said there hasn’t been nearly enough done to protect millions of vulnerable people worldwide from the expected increase in heat waves.

“It’s a deadly tragedy in the making, all the worse because the same experts are saying such heat waves are eminently survivable with adequate resources to protect people,” said climate researcher Eric Wolff, lead author of the Royal Society update.

Atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said climate science has progressed in all directions since the IPCC report was published in 2014. He works with a group of scientists trying to update the IPCC reporting process to make it more fluid and meaningful in real time.

The need to build resilience is clear and missing in action,” Trenberth said. “The result is we suffer the consequences at costs of hundreds of billions of dollars.”

One of the starkest conclusions of the Royal Society update is that up to 350 million people in places like Karachi, Kolkota, Lagos and Shanghai are likely to face deadly heat waves every year by 2050—even if nations are able to rein in greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Paris climate agreement.

There’s also an increasing chance global warming will affect a key North Atlantic current that carries ocean heat from the tropics toward western Europe, according to a 2016 study. It shows the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current weakening by 37 percent by 2100, which could have big effects on European climate and food production.

Melting Ice and Risks to Oceans and Ecosystems

The Royal Society report also notes:

• An increasing risk that ocean acidification will rapidly and significantly alter many ecosystems and food webs;

• A concern that crops grown in high-CO2 conditions could be less nutritious, leading to mineral deficiencies;

• That the commonly accepted wet-areas-wetter and dry-areas-drier scenario has regional nuances with important implications for local water management and food production planning; and,

• That scientists are finding more links between melting Arctic sea ice and weather extremes like heat waves, droughts and blizzards.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, an interagency group whose work went through exhaustive peer review and emerged from the Trump administration’s political review mostly unscathed, also cited several emerging conclusions that are much clearer today than five years ago.

Among them are changes in ocean ecosystems that go far beyond rising sea levels. Ocean acidification is increasing, as is oxygen loss, and scientists are more acutely aware than before of the severity of their impacts. In some U.S. coastal waters, these trends are “raising the risk of serious ecological and economic consequences,” the report noted.

The most ominous of its chapters addressed the risks of surprises like “tipping points” or “compound extremes”—sucker punches, combination punches, and even knockout punches. “The more the climate changes, the greater the potential for these,” it said.

“Uncertainty is not our friend here,” said Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. “We are seeing increases in extreme weather events that go well beyond what has been predicted or projected in the past. We’re learning that there are factors we were not previously aware of that may be magnifying the impacts of human-caused climate change.” Among those are “subtle mechanisms involving the behavior of the jet stream that may be involved in explaining the dramatic increase we’ve seen in floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires,” he said.

“Increasingly, the science suggests that many of the impacts are occurring earlier and with greater amplitude than was predicted,” Mann said, after considering new research since the milestone of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment, which served as the scientific basis for the Paris Agreement.

“We have literally, in the space of a year, doubled our assessment of the potential sea level rise we could see by the end of this century. That is simply remarkable. And it is sobering,” he said.

In general, there should be more monitoring of global warming impacts, but all those programs are threatened under the current administration, Mann said. “Continued funding to support research is critical,” he said, “and here, again, we encounter a very unfavorable political environment where fossil fuel-beholden politicians that run the White House and Congress are doing everything they can to defund and suppress research on climate change science and impact assessments.”

Press link for more: Inside Climate News

Baba Brinkman makes Climate Rap hot. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Rapper’s Lyrics about Climate Change Are Smart

Baba Brinkman makes climate rap hot

Mark FischettiDecember 27, 2017

Credit: Olivia Sebesky

Want to hear the most cogent scientific, social and political arguments about climate change?

Check out Baba Brinkman’s song “Make It Hot.” Brinkman is a Canadian rapper who has garnered fame for his various collections of work, such as The Rap Guide to Religion.

He’s become a bit of a phenomenon in the science and policy community, first with The Rap Guide to Evolution and his more recent collection of 24 songs called The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos.

He performed what may be his biggest hit, “Make It Hot,” at the COP21 climate meeting in Paris. And I heard him perform that piece last week at the AGU Annual Meeting in New Orleans, a conference of 23,000 earth, climate and space scientists. The audience was spellbound.

The organizers invited Brinkman, who now lives in New York City, to perform the song at the beginning of a major keynote address for the week. Not knowing what to expect, the audience was a little skeptical when Brinkman appeared—a tall, clean cut, well-dressed, middle-aged man who began by talking about climate, not rapping. But the large crowd became thoroughly enthralled after he got about a minute into the song. That’s because the lyrics are smart. Really smart.

I’m not the first to write about Brinkman’s work, but this may be the first time you’ve heard about him. Rather than me say more, just read the lyrics for yourself, below. I’ve highlighted a couple lines in particular that struck me. You can also see Brinkman perform the song on YouTube, below.

Enjoy. And share; the song will make people reflect about the role they, and all of us, play in making the climate issue hot.

“Make It Hot”

Written by D. Brinkman and D. Moross

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Scientists are telling us that we’re standing on a precipice

And we have to convert the global economy and make it emission-less

And those emissions are caused by every single one of our jobs

Every one of us contributing carbon emissions to the smog

For instance, if I write a rhyme tryin’ to describe climate change

And it’s hot, so it catches on, someone’s gonna fly me someplace

To perform it, and the appeal of that is enormous

It’s not an option for me to turn down work for global warming

‘Cause I make it hot, people say my rhymes are dope

I twist words until they’re unrecognizable

I make it hot, make it heezy fa sheezy

So hot even climate change skeptics will believe me

I make it hot, like the temperature it needs to be

Before the tea party will believe the IPCC

I make it hot, I liquefy the Greenland ice sheets

Seven meters of sea level rise, that’ll do nicely

And yeah, humans are adaptable, and we can toughen up

But that response ignores people who feel like it’s already tough enough

Make a list of countries that nobody visits as a tourist
They have low carbon emissions, the richest inflicted this on the poorest

We did it by heating our houses, and feeding our spouses

And flying and driving places and having no patience for power outages

The Pope calls it anthropocentric, he calls it obnoxious

But I got work to do, and work takes energy to accomplish

And I make it hot, I turn up the heat on the crowd

You make it hot too though, so don’t try to be weaseling out

I make it hot like the African sun

Like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

I make it hot, feel that bass when it vibrates

Hot like the permafrost releasing methyl hydrates

I make it hot, like a planet with low albedo

Like me rockin’ a trench coat on a beach instead of a speedo

Hot with no apologies, but still I’m feelin’ a lot grief

For the impact my lifestyle has on the planet’s ecology

My carbon footprint is bigger than crypto-zoology’s

I’m talkin’ Loch Ness monstrous, so I’m not at peace

Because the aggregate effect of every decision I’m makin’ is tragic

But I can’t just quit, they say that we’re “carbon emission addicts”

But that’s just glib, you want me to live in poverty abject

And if I did, what happens to greenhouse gasses on average?

If I quit and you don’t, it’s still hell in a hand-basket

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A traffic jam with no plan of action, fantastic

This is a classic arms race that we’re trapped in, it’s ominous

Self-interested parties stuck in a tragedy of the commons

The problem is caused by our collective emissions of carbon

But the person who emits is not the person emissions are harmin’

So it’s a failure of the market, everyone is incentivized

To pollute as much as they can get away with, and catch a free ride

So it’s no surprise to see emissions on the rise
When the cost of burning fossil fuel is externalized

It’s effectively subsidized, it’s paid for by the victims

Of the eventual climate impacts caused by our emissions

And Bill McKibben and the Guardian have been targeting investments

Like: Dirty energy is the new tobacco, so keep your distance

From anybody makin’ a profit off of fossil fuels

Cool, I’m down with the boycott, I’m just boycotting myself too

‘Cause I make it hot, I cause a heat wave

How about nine degrees hotter than the hottest ones these days?

I make it hot, like climate refugees

Picture a hot hundred million displaced Bangladeshis

I make it hot, split flames, rap metaphors

A five-alarm blaze killing the last redwood forest

I make it hot, I make it six degrees

Causing the extinction of forty percent of species

Hot! So what are we left with?

A speeding train with no brakes, some kind of a death wish?

A scientific consensus that we’re standing on a precipice

And a population with no idea of how to reduce their emissions

Some people do offset their footprint voluntarily

With the milk of human altruism, hope, faith and charity

But that’s not gonna cut it – it’s not counterproductive

But we got a global carbon budget and it’s globally busted

And there are hundreds of gigatons that you would have to offset

You might as well donate your piggy bank to the national debt

I ain’t got no spare change to donate to carbon offsetting

I don’t even want to calculate my footprint, I find it upsetting

It’s like the medieval Catholic church, back when it was indulgence-selling

If you get a big mac and a diet coke, your belly is still swelling

But here’s what I’m willing: I’m willing to pay a tax

A fee that’s calculated against my carbon impacts

And globally harmonized to switch incentives around

And make sure most of that carbon stays safely underground

But I’m not gonna pay it, not unless you all pay it too

That way I can be sure that you’ll do what you say you’ll do

How about everyone has to pay it, no free riders allowed

No international pact with the US or China left out

You can invest it in green R&D, or you can dividend it back to me

But either way I won’t be happy until the day they’re carbon taxing me

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‘Cause then I can make it hot, without ever feelin’ a chill

I’m sick of the guilt trip killin’ my high when I’m feelin’ a thrill

So I make it hot, I get your emotions aroused

If we can’t make those hot, we’re not gonna keep the oceans down

So let’s make it hot, people, let’s turn up the heat

On polluters tryin’ to catch a ride on all the rest of us for free

I make it hot on the mic and in my social life

When I agitate for my friends to agitate for a carbon price

And that’s how you make it hot

From The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, released September 30, 2016

Written by D. Brinkman and D. Moross

Press link for more: Scientific American

Melting ice in one spot causes kick-on thousands of kilometres away #ClimateChange #auspol

New modelling finds the effects of melting Antarctic ice can affect distant glaciers.

Michael Lucy reports.

The effects of Antarctic ice melting are heavily influenced by location, a new study finds.

MARK J THOMAS/GETTY IMAGES

The thinning of floating ice shelves around Antarctica can affect the flow of glaciers as far as 900 kilometres away, according to new research that shows the fragility of the barriers keeping the southern polar ice from sliding into the ocean. The fate of the Antarctic ice cap, which holds enough frozen water to raise sea levels by almost 60 metres, will have repercussions around the world.

“Thinning in a small, localised ice-shelf area can influence glacial movement over much larger distances than we previously thought,” says Ronja Reese of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the paper published in Nature Climate Change. Many of the most critical regions, she adds, “are located in areas that could be easily accessed by warm ocean waters”.

The ice shelves that surround Antarctica are floating extensions of the continental ice mass that scientists believe will in large part determine how much and how quickly sea levels rise as the world heats up.

Floating ice won’t directly increase the level of the sea when it melts, in the same way that a melting ice cube doesn’t raise the level of a drink in a glass.

“But it is known that melting of ice shelves can cause mass losses and sea-level rise indirectly,” says Reese. “Ice shelves buttress the ice flow from the continent into the ocean.”

A perfect experiment to show the effect of ice shelves occurred in 2002, when the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed entirely. In short order, the glaciers it had been holding back began to move almost 10 times as quickly as before.

Most of the changes to ice shelves are less dramatic than total collapse: the warm waters lapping at their undersides cause gradual thinning which weakens the shelf.

Reese and her colleagues set out to study what effect this thinning has on the flow of glaciers by building a computer model of the stresses and flows within the Antarctic ice shelves.

Using their model, they developed maps that show where thinning will have the greatest effect on the rate of ice flow. The greatest effects occurred where the floating ice is connected to the onshore ice, while ice loss from certain areas will not have much effect elsewhere.

One of the most interesting discoveries was a long-range effect the researchers call “tele-buttressing”, which is a result of the force and stress patterns within the ice sheets.

“This tele-buttressing can reach as far as 900 kilometres,” says Reese. Thinning near Ross Island, for instance, can accelerate the Bindschandler ice stream on the opposite side of the Ross ice shelf.

The modelling also confirms that the spectacular calving of a trillion-tonne iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017 occurred in a relatively “passive” part of the shelf, meaning it will have little effect on the outflow of nearby glaciers.

“We have created a risk map of ice-shelf regions,” says Reese, which shows areas that deserve careful monitoring for signs of thinning. Future research may focus on more detailed modelling of the knock-on effects of current thinning on ice flows, and how those increased flows may in turn influence sea level rise.

Press link for more: Cosmos Magazine

Science Confirms Human Link to Extreme Weather #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Pruitt’s Plan to Debate Climate Science Paused as Science Confirms Human Link to Extreme Weather

Julie Dermansky | December 19, 2017

The same week that a slew of new scientific reports confirmed just how much humans are changing the climate, and in turn, the rest of the planet, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt’s plans for a “Red Team, Blue Team” debate of this very same science were put on hold.

The military-style exercise that would falsely pit the overwhelming majority of climate scientists against a handful of non-experts is an eight-year-old talking point of the notorious climate-denying think tank the Heartland Institute (which is likely not surprised by this development). Meanwhile, last week in New Orleans, several groups of prominent climate scientists shared their latest findings at the world’s largest gathering of Earth and planetary scientists. The roughly 25,000 attendees of the American Geophysical Union annual meeting included scientific leaders from academia, government, and the private sector.

Clear and Present Climate Science

These peer-reviewed reports make it clear that any meaningful climate debate in the future should not be over the degree of humanity’s role in climate change, but to what degree the climate has changed already and what can be done to stop it.

The American Metrological Society’s 2016 “State of the Climate” report offers the first examples of extreme weather events not possible in a preindustrial climate. “Climate change was a necessary condition for some of these events in 2016, in order for them to happen,” Jeff Rosenfeld, editor in chief of the Bulletin of the American Metrological Society, said at a press conference. “These are new weather extremes made possible by a new climate. They were impossible in the old climate.”

These included 2016’s record global warmth, extreme heat across Asia, and a marine heat wave off the coast of Alaska, all of which appear in a special report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2016 from a Climate Perspective.

Two other scientific reports presented at the conference explain how human-induced climate change intensified Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rain, confirming what scientists suspected.

In one, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published findings suggesting that Harvey’s rainfall was attributable to global warming, which increased precipitation by at least 19 percent but more likely by as much as 38 percent. Their conclusions came from comparing total rainfall and the chances of a storm of that magnitude under present climate conditions with the likelihood of a similar storm taking place in the 1950s, when the atmosphere had lower levels of greenhouse gases.

Flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey on Briarforest Drive in Houston, Texas.

In another report, researchers from the Netherlands published a study examining trends in rainfall intensity along the Gulf Coast starting around 1880 when records begin. They also used multiple global climate change models to determine that global warming made a storm of Harvey’s intensity three times more likely. The Berkeley National Lab study also linked Harvey’s intensity to anthropogenic climate change.

At a press conference on Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a co-author of the latest study, said, “It is not news that climate change affects extreme precipitation, but our results indicate that the amount is larger than expected.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also presented its annual report on the Arctic, showing that permafrost there is thawing at a faster pace.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet said at a press conference when the government report was introduced.

“The Arctic has a huge influence on the world at large,” Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and co-author of the NOAA study, said. This year’s preliminary reports from the U.S. and Canada showed permafrost temperatures are “again the warmest for all sites” measured in North America.

Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA’s Arctic research program and study co-author, explained the report’s findings in layman’s terms: “The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open.”

Scott A. Mandia, founder of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, in the American Geophysical Union meeting exhibition hall.

Science, Activism, and Action

New to this year’s meeting was the session “Legal Advice for Scientists Interested in Activism.” Lauren Kurtz, an attorney with the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, offered scientists advice on how to take part in activism and protest without putting their careers on the line. She gave tips that could keep them out of trouble should they choose to protest.

“Interest in the topic has been tenfold since the March for Science in Washington this April,” Kurtz told me.

Basic tips for scientists included not wearing the insignia of their employers when attending an event like the March for Science because it could go against anti-lobbying restrictions or workplace policies. She also advised not using a public university email address for anything connected to political issues because emails are considered government records and could be subject to open records requests and used to try to discredit the scientists, something Penn State atmospheric scientist Michael E. Mann has experienced firsthand.

Everything was not doom and gloom, however. At a session called “Climate Solutions: Policy, Planning, Science and Engineering in Uncertain Political and Economic Times,” climate scientists offered hope that we still have time to curb the worst of climate change if we act now.

Pennsylvania State University professor David W. Titley, who is also a retired naval officer outspoken about climate change threats to national security, pointed out that President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act that very day (December 12). This bill requires climate change impacts and threats be taken into account in order to protect U.S. military bases and interests. Despite signing this bill, on December 18, Trump took climate change off the list of national security threats in his new national security strategy.

Dr. Sarah Myhre, a climate researcher at the University of Washington and self-declared proud advocate for science and human rights, brought the “Me Too” movement into the conversation, calling for an end to misogyny in science. She read aloud Trump’s quote about “pussy-grabbing” after pointing out a vacuum of leadership on climate change which she thinks scientists can help fill. “The public is not only looking for information from us. The public is looking for cultural leadership,” she explained.

Climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann, known for the famous “hockey stick graph” showing rising modern temperatures, at the 2017 American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans.

Also on the panel was Michael Mann, who described Pruitt’s proposed “fake Red Team, Blue Team” debate about climate change as a way to undermine the public’s confidence in climate science.

Using a football analogy, Mann warned that if we are going to avert dangerous warming, then the U.S. needs to take an offensive stance, taking the lead on solving the climate problem.

Mann said, “The solutions to this problem are already available and they will lead us down a path of economic prosperity, a clean energy revolution,” and that we can grow our economy while preventing the worst impacts from climate change from happening.

Like Mann, panelist Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany offered a similar message. Acknowledging changes that have already happened, he insisted that we can still stop the worst of what is coming, but his message of hope came with a dire warning: “We don’t have the time to debate this another three to five years before we do anything because the window of opportunity for limiting global warming to well below two degrees [Celsius] is falling shut on us as we speak.”

NASA’s Exhibit at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Meeting in New Orleans. Some of the items given out by NASA were made in China despite Trump’s Buy in America executive order.

Press link for more: Desmogblog.com

Let it go: The Arctic will never be frozen again #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol

By Eric Holthaus

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last week, at a New Orleans conference center that once doubled as a storm shelter for thousands during Hurricane Katrina, a group of polar scientists made a startling declaration: The Arctic as we once knew it is no more.

The region is now definitively trending toward an ice-free state, the scientists said, with wide-ranging ramifications for ecosystems, national security, and the stability of the global climate system. It was a fitting venue for an eye-opening reminder that, on its current path, civilization is engaged in an existential gamble with the planet’s life-support system.

In an accompanying annual report on the Arctic’s health — titled “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades” — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees all official U.S. research in the region, coined a term: “New Arctic.

Until roughly a decade or so ago, the region was holding up relatively well, despite warming at roughly twice the rate of the planet as a whole. But in recent years, it’s undergone an abrupt change, which now defines it. The Arctic is our glimpse of an Earth in flux, transforming into something that’s radically different from today.

At a press conference announcing the new assessment, acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet emphasizes the “huge impact” these changes were having on everything from tourism to fisheries to worldwide weather patterns.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic — it affects the rest of the planet,” Gallaudet said.

View image on Twitter

Monthly #Arctic temperature ranks (1=warmest [red], 39=coldest [blue]) over the satellite era – including November 2017

In an interview with NPR, marine scientist Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Program, went a step further. When it comes to the Arctic, Mathis said “there is no normal” anymore: “The environment is changing so quickly in such a short amount of time that we can’t quite get a handle on what this new state is going to look like.”

Using 1,500 years of natural records compiled from lake sediments, ice cores, and tree rings as context, the NOAA report says the Arctic is changing at a rate far beyond what’s occurred in the region for millennia.

“The rate of change is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and probably going back even further than that,” Mathis said. “Not only are we seeing big changes, we’re seeing the pace of that change begin to increase.”

In the NOAA report, Arctic scientists lay out their best ideas of what this shift could mean for the world. Their depictions are sobering.

Take, for instance, the hypothesis of University of Alaska-Fairbanks permafrost scientist Vladimir Romanovsky: So far, 2017 has seen the highest permafrost temperatures in Alaska on record. If that warming continues at the current rate, widespread thawing could begin in as few as 10 years. The impact of such defrosting “will be very very severe,” Romanovsky says, and could include destruction of local infrastructure — like roads and buildings — throughout the Northern Hemisphere and the release of additional greenhouse gases that have been locked for generations in the ice.

View image on Twitter

NOAA: Arctic saw 2nd warmest year, smallest winter sea ice coverage on record in 2017

The loss of sea ice is already having profound changes all the way down at the base of the Arctic food web. As more sunlight hits darkly-colored open water, more heat energy is retained, and temperatures are rising further. That’s kicking off what Mathis, of NOAA’s Arctic Program characterizes as “an almost runaway effect,” involving a lengthening of the growing season, a greening of the tundra, a surge in wildfires, and a boom in plankton growth. All that adds up to a wide-ranging disruption to patterns that Arctic natives have relied on for millennia

‘The Inuit have a word for changes they are seeing to their environment: uggianaqtuq, meaning “to behave strangely”’: strong, sad NYT article on lost ice, lost hope & solastalgia in northern communities.

Press link for more: Grist.org

Recent Arctic warming and ice melt are ‘unprecedented’ in human history. #StopAdani

By Andrew Freedman

Sea ice near Svalbard, Norway.

Image: Shutterstock / Avatar_023

Each year for the past 12 years, an international team of scientists have issued a “report card” on the Arctic climate system. The report amounts to a physical exam of the vast, rapidly changing region, including details on everything from surface air temperatures to sea ice melt and permafrost loss.

With each passing year, the report cards have become more dire, depicting a region that is moving into a totally new regime as sea ice melts, air temperatures warm, and the once permanently frozen ground gives way. The report is the product of 85 scientists from 12 different countries.

The 2017 Arctic Report Card, released Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, is no exception, with scientists warning that the magnitude and the pace of the 21st Century plunge in sea ice extent as well as the amount of ocean surface warming is unprecedented in at least the past 1,500 years.

SEE ALSO: Crucial Arctic monitoring satellites are blinking out just when we need them most

High-resolution Arctic paleo-reconstructions, based on 45 different “proxy” indicators, such as tree rings, sediment cores, and ancient air bubbles trapped in ice cores, permit scientists to trace sea ice extent back well before there were satellites monitoring the region.

“The Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a few decades ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, who leads the Arctic program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Image: Shutterstock / Nightman1965

“The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,” Mathis said. He explained that everyone in the U.S. and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has a stake in what happens in the far north.

“We want every single American to know… these changes will impact all of our lives,” he added, citing climate refugees, extreme weather events, and higher food prices that have potential links to rapid Arctic climate change. Mathis said modeling studies increasingly show that there are links between sea ice loss in the Arctic, which changes the amount of heat and moisture in the air there, and extreme weather events that affect the U.S. and Europe, though he cautioned this research is not yet definitive.

According to the report, the Arctic had its second-warmest year on record in 2017, with an average annual air temperatures of 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981 to 2010 average. Temperature data for the region dates back to 1900.

Surface air temperature anomalies in the Arctic during 2017.

Sea ice extent, which peaks in late winter, didn’t have much of a recovery after summer melting. The winter ice maximum was the lowest on record since satellite measurements began in 1979, the report says.

However, even with the sea ice entering the melt season in a precarious position, a relatively cool summer prevented Arctic sea ice from setting another record summer minimum, and also slowed Greenland melting, at least for a short time.

According to Emily Osborne, a report coauthor with the NOAA Arctic Research Program, 10 of the lowest sea ice minimums have occurred in the past 11 years.

Many scientists think the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free during the summer months within the next few decades, likely before 2050. One sign of this is that one-year-old ice, which melts easily, made up 79 percent of the Arctic sea ice in 2017, the report found. Older, thicker, multiyear ice comprised just 21 percent of the 2017 sea ice cover, compared to more than twice that in 1985.

Osborne cited data from 45 different indicators of sea ice extent dating back 1,500 years, such as tree rings and other so-called “proxy data,” showing that the recent plunge in sea ice extent is “unprecedented in the last 1500 years and likely longer.”

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, largely because of a process known as Arctic amplification. Through this process, warming air and sea temperatures melt sea ice, which exposes darker ocean waters to incoming sunlight. Since the ocean waters are less reflective than the ice, they absorb more heat, thereby warming the sea and air, and then, well, melting more ice.

In addition to this inherent feedback process in the region, there has been an increase in the amount of heat being transported into the Arctic Ocean from both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, scientists said.

Arctic sea ice extent in the past 1,500 years.

Image: NOAA Climate.gov; Kinnard et al., 2011

The loss of sea ice cover and increased exposure to sunlight has led to a boost in algae blooms and other biological activity in the marine food web, which could have profound implications for marine species.

There is also a growing concern regarding the melting of permanently frozen soil ringing the Arctic, known as permafrost.

As this melting occurs, more greenhouse gases are emitted, including methane, which is a shorter-lived but more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This represents a positive feedback loop that could yield substantially more global warming, depending how much and how quickly permafrost melts.

For now, Vladimir Romanovsky, a researcher at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said that in 2016, the majority of Arctic observing sites reported their highest permafrost temperatures on record, with the highest readings in Svalbard, Norway, as well as the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic.

One of the more remarkable aspects about the 2017 Arctic Report Card is that it came out at all. The Trump administration has been deleting climate change references from federal websites, reassigning climate scientists at some government agencies, and preventing scientists from speaking about climate change in public forums.

However, so far at least, NOAA has been relatively sheltered from this interference.  “The public should have high confidence in us,” said acting NOAA director Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, who pointed out that NOAA continues to research and report on climate science, including with this comprehensive Arctic summary.

Gallaudet said he has briefed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on the findings of the report.

“The White House is addressing it, acknowledging it, and factoring it into its agenda,” he said.

President Donald Trump is the first president in decades to go this long without a science advisor, who would head up OSTP and brief the president on the report’s findings.

Press link for more: Mashable.com

Ice Apocalypse Coastal Cities flooded by 2100 #StopAdani

Ice Apocalypse: How the rapid collapse of Antarctic glaciers could flood coastal cities by the end of this century

by Eric Holthaus, Grist

Pine Island Glacier shelf edge. Jeremy Harbeck

In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

To figure that out, scientists have been looking back to the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, when global temperatures stood at roughly their current levels. The bad news? There’s growing evidence that the Pine Island Bay glaciers collapsed rapidly back then, flooding the world’s coastlines — partially the result of something called “marine ice-cliff instability.”

The ocean floor gets deeper toward the center of this part of Antarctica, so each new iceberg that breaks away exposes taller and taller cliffs. Ice gets so heavy that these taller cliffs can’t support their own weight. Once they start to crumble, the destruction would be unstoppable.

“Ice is only so strong, so it will collapse if these cliffs reach a certain height,” explains Kristin Poinar, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We need to know how fast it’s going to happen.”

In the past few years, scientists have identified marine ice-cliff instability as a feedback loop that could kickstart the disintegration of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet this century — much more quickly than previously thought.

Minute-by-minute, huge skyscraper-sized shards of ice cliffs would crumble into the sea, as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as deep underwater as the height of the Empire State Building. The result: a global catastrophe the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Ice comes in many forms, with different consequences when it melts. Floating ice, like the kind that covers the Arctic Ocean in wintertime and comprises ice shelves, doesn’t raise sea levels. (Think of a melting ice cube, which won’t cause a drink to spill over.)

Land-based ice, on the other hand, is much more troublesome. When it falls into the ocean, it adds to the overall volume of liquid in the seas. Thus, sea-level rise.

Antarctica is a giant landmass — about half the size of Africa — and the ice that covers it averages more than a mile thick. Before human burning of fossil fuels triggered global warming, the continent’s ice was in relative balance: The snows in the interior of the continent roughly matched the icebergs that broke away from glaciers at its edges.

Now, as carbon dioxide traps more heat in the atmosphere and warms the planet, the scales have tipped.

A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet, flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

Pine Island Glacier calving front. NASA ICE

All this could play out in a mere 20 to 50 years — much too quickly for humanity to adapt.

“With marine ice cliff instability, sea-level rise for the next century is potentially much larger than we thought it might be five or 10 years ago,” Poinar says.

A lot of this newfound concern is driven by the research of two climatologists: Rob DeConto at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and David Pollard at Penn State University. A study they published last year was the first to incorporate the latest understanding of marine ice-cliff instability into a continent-scale model of Antarctica.

Their results drove estimates for how high the seas could rise this century sharply higher. “Antarctic model raises prospect of unstoppable ice collapse,” read the headline in the scientific journal Nature, a publication not known for hyperbole.

Instead of a three-foot increase in ocean levels by the end of the century, six feet was more likely, according to DeConto and Pollard’s findings. But if carbon emissions continue to track on something resembling a worst-case scenario, the full 11 feet of ice locked in West Antarctica might be freed up, their study showed.

Three feet of sea-level rise would be bad, leading to more frequent flooding of U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Houston, New York, and Miami. Pacific Island nations, like the Marshall Islands, would lose most of their territory. Unfortunately, it now seems like three feet is possible only under the rosiest of scenarios.

At six feet, though, around 12 million people in the United States would be displaced, and the world’s most vulnerable megacities, like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Ho Chi Minh City, could be wiped off the map.

At 11 feet, land currently inhabited by hundreds of millions of people worldwide would wind up underwater. South Florida would be largely uninhabitable; floods on the scale of Hurricane Sandy would strike twice a month in New York and New Jersey, as the tug of the moon alone would be enough to send tidewaters into homes and buildings.

DeConto and Pollard’s breakthrough came from trying to match observations of ancient sea levels at shorelines around the world with current ice sheet behavior.

Around 3 million years ago, when global temperatures were about as warm as they’re expected to be later this century, oceans were dozens of feet higher than today.

Previous models suggested that it would take hundreds or thousands of years for sea-level rise of that magnitude to occur. But once they accounted for marine ice-cliff instability, DeConto and Pollard’s model pointed toward a catastrophe if the world maintains a “business as usual” path — meaning we don’t dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Rapid cuts in greenhouse gases, however, showed Antarctica remaining almost completely intact for hundreds of years.

Pollard and DeConto are the first to admit that their model is still crude, but its results have pushed the entire scientific community into emergency mode.

“It could happen faster or slower, I don’t think we really know yet,” says Jeremy Bassis, a leading ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan. “But it’s within the realm of possibility, and that’s kind of a scary thing.”

Scientists used to think that ice sheets could take millennia to respond to changing climates. These are, after all, mile-thick chunks of ice.

The new evidence, though, says that once a certain temperature threshold is reached, ice shelves of glaciers that extend into the sea, like those near Pine Island Bay, will begin to melt from both above and below, weakening their structure and hastening their demise, and paving the way for ice-cliff instability to kick in.

In a new study out last month in the journal Nature, a team of scientists from Cambridge and Sweden point to evidence from thousands of scratches left by ancient icebergs on the ocean floor, indicating that Pine Island’s glaciers shattered in a relatively short amount of time at the end of the last ice age.

The only place in the world where you can see ice-cliff instability in action today is at Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, one of the fastest-collapsing glaciers in the world. DeConto says that to construct their model, they took the collapse rate of Jakobshavn, cut it in half to be extra conservative, then applied it to Thwaites and Pine Island.

But there’s reason to think Thwaites and Pine Island could go even faster than Jakobshavn.

Right now, there’s a floating ice shelf protecting the two glaciers, helping to hold back the flow of ice into the sea. But recent examples from other regions, like the rapidly collapsing Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, show that once ice shelves break apart as a result of warming, their parent glaciers start to flow faster toward the sea, an effect that can weaken the stability of ice further inland, too.

“If you remove the ice shelf, there’s a potential that not just ice-cliff instabilities will start occurring, but a process called marine ice-sheet instabilities,” says Matthew Wise, a polar scientist at the University of Cambridge.

This signals the possible rapid destabilization of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet in this century. “Once the stresses exceed the strength of the ice,” Wise says, “it just falls off.”

And, it’s not just Pine Island Bay. On our current course, other glaciers around Antarctica will be similarly vulnerable. And then there’s Greenland, which could contribute as much as 20 feet of sea-level rise if it melts.

Next to a meteor strike, rapid sea-level rise from collapsing ice cliffs is one of the quickest ways our world can remake itself. This is about as fast as climate change gets.

Still, some scientists aren’t fully convinced the alarm is warranted. Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, says the new research by Wise and his colleagues, which identified ice-cliff instabilities in Pine Island Bay 11,000 years ago, is “tantalizing evidence.” But he says that research doesn’t establish how quickly it happened.

“There’s a whole lot more to understand if we’re going to use this mechanism to predict how far Thwaites glacier and the other glaciers are going to retreat,” he says. “The question boils down to, what are the brakes on this process?”

Scambos thinks it is unlikely that Thwaites or Pine Island would collapse all at once. For one thing, if rapid collapse did happen, it would produce a pile of icebergs that could act like a temporary ice shelf, slowing down the rate of retreat.

Despite the differences of opinion, however, there’s growing agreement within the scientific community that we need to do much more to determine the risk of rapid sea-level rise. In 2015, the U.S. and U.K. governments began to plan a rare and urgent joint research program to study Thwaites glacier. Called “How much, how fast?,” the effort is set to begin early next year and run for five years.

Seeing the two governments pooling their resources is “really a sign of the importance of research like this,” NASA’s Poinar says.

Given what’s at stake, the research program at Thwaites isn’t enough, but it might be the most researchers can get. “Realistically, it’s probably all that can be done in the next five years in the current funding environment,” says Pollard.

He’s referring, of course, to the Trump administration’s disregard for science and adequate scientific funding; the White House’s 2018 budget proposal includes the first-ever cut to the National Science Foundation, which typically funds research in Antarctica.

“It would be sensible to put a huge effort into this, from my perspective,” Pollard says. Structural engineers need to study Antarctica’s key glaciers as though they were analyzing a building, he says, probing for weak spots and understanding how exactly they might fail. “If you vastly increase the research now, [the cost] would still be trivial compared to the losses that might happen.”

Bassis, the ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan, first described the theoretical process of marine ice-cliff instability in research published only a few years ago.

He’s 40 years old, but his field has already changed enormously over the course of his career. In 2002, when Bassis was conducting his PhD research in a different region of Antarctica, he was shocked to return to his base camp and learn that the Larsen B ice shelf had vanished practically overnight.

“Every revision to our understanding has said that ice sheets can change faster than we thought,” he says. “We didn’t predict that Pine Island was going to retreat, we didn’t predict that Larsen B was going to disintegrate. We tend to look at these things after they’ve happened.”

There’s a recurring theme throughout these scientists’ findings in Antarctica: What we do now will determine how quickly Pine Island and Thwaites collapse. A fast transition away from fossil fuels in the next few decades could be enough to put off rapid sea-level rise for centuries. That’s a decision worth countless trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

“The range of outcomes,” Bassis says, “is really going to depend on choices that people make.”

Press link for more: Climate Code Red