Micro-critters Rule!

A layman’s musings about ecology, and the possibility that, while man may rule the fate of whooping cranes, far smaller creatures may rule the fate of sea-ice.

Guest essay by Caleb Shaw

Sometimes, as my mind’s eye wanders over the Arctic Ocean, I am drawn ashore to contemplate wonders of the Tundra. I try to avoid politics, as the wonders are more wonderful when simply appreciated in the light of Truth, but Climate Alarmism is a sort of whirlpool that sucks you in, even when it is basically a comical shtick.

For example, along the coast of the Northwest Territories are the “Smoking Hills” of Franklin Bay, which appear over and over in Facebook images sent by sailors attempting the Northwest Passage. The sailors always seem jarred by the sight (and scent). Often they have been cluttering their log with editorial comments about how beautiful the arctic is, and what cads humans are to destroy the pristine beauty of nature with Global Warming caused by burning coal. Then they come across a stretch of coast that is in essence Mother Nature’s Strip Mine, miles and miles of exposed lignite, black stripes in the sedimentary layers of seaside cliffs. In places the lignite has spontaneously ignited and has been burning for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, without the slightest effort on the part of Mother Nature to install smokestacks or put scrubbers in those stacks.


Photo Credit: http://northwestpassage2014.blogspot.com/2014_06_01_archive.html

In the above picture the red areas are stone after the coal has been burned out, and the black is unburned lignite. Besides the current fires there is evidence of fires that burned long ago and went out. (The oldest fires are not a geologically recent occurrence; so don’t try to blame Eskimos who were careless with campfires).

In any case, even if you went to the arctic to get away from ever having to even think about the issue of coal fired power plants, the issue gets shoved in your face, and you find yourself forced to rethink some of the ideas doled out like pabulum in the Alarmist shtick. In this case it is the simplistic idea that man burns fossil fuels and nature doesn’t.

In another case one might think man leaks oil and nature doesn’t, and then see natural slicks in the Gulf of Mexico, or tars oozing up from earthquake faults off the California coast.

Even as I type my daughter has bought home a new “pink” salt, which is supposedly healthier, as it is from high up in the Himalayas. A mere saltshaker fills me with wonder about how that salt got way up there, and also about what happened to all the fossil fuels when the subcontinent of India was sent smashing into Asia by continental drift.

The problem with some people is they don’t think very deeply about the lollipop shticks they get handed and are asked to suck upon. It doesn’t take much thought to realize Nature is the original recycler, plowing the ocean floor down in geological subduction zones, and creating huge mountain ranges with fossil seashells at the tops.

Over at “Watts Up With That” there was a guest essay by Larry Kummer about the Alarmist shtick involving Methane. Initially I wasn’t interested because the Alarmism involved is so soundly refuted that not even the IPCC thinks it is worth freaking out about, (and the IPCC freaks out about stuff grandmothers laugh at). (I myself couldn’t even start to take the Methane Fear seriously, because I have seen plenty of evidence it was much warmer in the arctic in the relatively recent past, and if there weren’t uncontrollable methane releases back then I don’t see why they should occur now.)

The easy solution to the looming monster methane apocalypse

Ordinarily I would have skipped the post, as the issue usually bores me, however the Alarmist cartoon at the start intrigued me, for it suggested that some Alarmists are so sold on the idea of a “Methane Monster” that they even see the pro-Global-Warming IPCC as “deniers.”


I fully intended to only skim the article, but in it discovered a portal to another tundra wonder, found in this paper:


In a nutshell the paper states there are two sorts of arctic soil, one which is frozen ooze that is rich in carbon and might be expected to burp up some methane if warmed, but also a second which is a more-common-soil which holds little carbon, as it is the sort of till one associates with glaciers and glacier-scraped landscapes. (Glaciers largely transport topsoil far away to terminal moraines and out-wash streams. After a glacier departs the landscape is usually denuded of topsoil. It is clay, sand and gravel that holds no organic carbon and can brew no methane. It also is devoid of compost, and can’t feed plants. It is basically sterile, however a bacterium inhabits the surface of such soil that can snatch methane from the air, and enrich its own habitat.)

That was what grabbed my mind’s eye. Perhaps it was because as a farmer I’m interested in enriching soils, but my mind highlighted the paper’s suggestion that, where the soil lacks carbon, nature has found a way to enrich the soil, using bacteria that gobbles methane. The paper went on to state that the warmer it gets, the livelier that bacterium gets, and the more methane it gobbles. (IE: warmer temperatures mean less methane is left in the air; the exact opposite of what Methane-hysteria predicts.)

This shows how little we understand the Earth we claim to be the protectors of. If we’d all gone rushing off half-cocked on a crusade against methane, we might be dooming the arctic topsoil to sterility. Just imagine our guilt!

The old time farmers knew of two basic ways to enrich soil. The first involved sweat and toil, and lugging manure from the stables and spreading it in the fields. The second was a heck of a lot easier, because all you needed to do was give the field a rest. It was called a “fallow” field.

A fallow field shows nature’s ability to enrich a landscape without any help from humans. You’d think Alarmists would get this concept, considering they portray man as the raping, robbing bad-guy, and nature as the loving, giving good-gal. However some don’t seem to see nature will not allow a natural thing like methane to go to waste. Neither will nature allow a natural thing like crude oil seeping up from earthquake faults in California to go to waste. Nature gobbles the substances up, and they becomes part of the food chain, which involves all sorts of stuff eating, being eaten, and, in the end, turning to manure which enriches the soil.

Nature can take a most sterile landscape and make it verdant. The second a glacier recedes nature gets busy on the barren landscape, starting with lichen and progressing through tundra to taiga to the rich farmlands of Ohio.

In essence nature is guilty of altering its environment even more than man. Nature does not care a hoot about the current ecosystem. It improves upon it. However many fail to understand this natural progression, (and yet some call themselves “progressives”).

The arctic landscape is extra amazing, for it shows nature tested to its limits, and how nature will not stand for the status quo of a sterile ecosystem, but enriches it. Besides the micro-critter in sterile arctic soil that craves methane, there are some amazing micro-critters that live out on the even more hostile environment of the sea-ice.

The first was brought into the focus of my mind’s eye by the amazing pictures made public by the exploits of O-buoy 9, during its two-year-journey from the Asian side of the Pole to a pile-up on the north coast of Greenland, and then east to a grand exit south into Fram Strait. The time-lapse movie made of the pictures taken during this journey makes better watching than most sea-ice documentaries, (and contains more pure Truth). This is especially true of the final eight minutes, which shows the coast of Greenland come looming up, the ice piling up, and then the ice going through a sort of swirling blender in Fram Strait.


For most of the journey the sea-ice is either a pristine white or a gorgeous turquoise. It is only when the ice gets to Fram Strait that the overlays of fresh snows are melted away, and one is confronted by the phenomenon of filthy ice.


Of course, the very sight of dirty ice can get the usual suspects raving about coal-fired power plants, and the audacity Asian nations have, daring to develop their economies. There tends to be some pushback from others who suggest soot from volcanoes might contribute to the ice’s dingy hue, but this pushback isn’t great. It is generally accepted humans must get the blame, until something odd is noticed. A lot of the ice in Fram Strait has been flipped like a pancake, and it is not the top of the ice that is dirty, but rather the bottom. Like the hull of a ship that has spent long months at sea, the underside of the ice is coated with a slime. Micro-critters have been at it once again, and humans get no credit.

This actually hugely changed a preconception that I was taught, which stated that the Arctic Ocean was like other Seas, and that once you got away from the Continental Shelf the waters tended to become increasingly sterile. Without reefs, shallow waters, and the upwelling of nutrients that occur near shores, there could be no plankton, no arctic cod, no seals, and last but not least, no icons of Global Warming Worry, polar bears. In fact it was stated that, as the sea-ice shrank in the arctic, bears and seals would be forced away from the shores into waters that were basically a desert, and they would starve.

Usually I avoid the topic of polar bears, because the shtick is so maudlin it makes me want to go outside and bang my head against a tree. Fortunately I discovered the site http://polarbearscience.com/ , which contains less emotion and more science. There I discovered that, away from the coasts of the Arctic Ocean, there was no sign of emaciated seals or bears, and in fact the animals looked, if anything, obese. What happened to the desert? Once again humans get no credit, for micro-critters saved the day.

Apparently the slime on the underside of sea-ice utterly changes the equation, and makes the Arctic Ocean unique among oceans, because even far from shore the nutrients may exist that feed plankton that feed cod that feed seals that feed bears. Nothing eats bears, so there actually were some very old bears that could qualify as being skinny. (Of course, using senile bears to judge the physical status of all bears would be like using a ninety-year-old man to judge the strength of all humans…so that is exactly what the media went and did, on occasion, which explains my going outside to bang my head on trees.)

I prefer avoiding the entire topic of bears, and instead like to contemplate the true boss and controller of the arctic ecosystem, which is that amazing micro-critter, which exists as slime on the underside of ice.

Talk about a hostile environment! The underside of ice might seem a quiet and calm place to abide, and you might imagine a 24-hour-daylight of a deep, undersea turquoise and emerald would be appealing to algae, however consider, if you will, the surface the critters are growing upon. They are attempting to root upon a surface that is constantly melting away beneath their feet. In fact the bottom of the sea ice melts upwards an average of three to four feet, each summer. Talk about climbing a slippery slope! How the heck do the critters hang on? Then the sunlight vanishes and the ice grows downwards three to four feet, engulfing them deeply in bitter cold ice. How the heck do they get started the following spring?

However that hostile environment is nothing, compared to another niche another micro-critter has carved out.

When the arctic water freezes in the fall, salt is exuded from the ice and coexists with solid ice as liquid brine. This brine forms in all directions, and the surface of the ice can be wet with brine at first, however with time gravity takes charge and the brine starts melting its way down through the ice. In extreme situations, for example when polynyas of open water form as gales blow ice offshore along the coast of Antarctica, the brine can actually form trickling channels and then, when the brine reaches the seawater beneath the new ice, be so cold that the brine freezes the seawater on contact, and form pipelines of ice downwards called “brinicles”. So cold is the brine flowing down these tubes that when they reach the sea-bottom they can freeze passing starfish in their tracks

Ordinarily temperatures around the North Pole are not so extremely cold, and the amount of brine is more limited, and the brine sinks down through the ice as little teardrops of very salty water, boring downwards even while freezing over from above. They become self contained units, like little down-elevators. You might think absolutely nothing could live in these bitter cold, inky dark, and extremely salty descending elevators. However apparently some bacterium was looking for a place to rent with no competitors, no predators, and no salesmen, and decided these elevators looked like a perfect niche to make their own. So what if the niche was extremely cold, extremely salty, and extremely dark? (Sounds like some places I myself rented, when young.)

Then this little tenacious tenant apparently becomes dissatisfied with the brine. There must be some bacterial equivalent of a wife who wants to hang drapes and pictures, for this micro-critter apparently adjusts the brine to its liking. It does not want to make a Natural Park of the status quo, but rather fundamentally alters the microenvironment, so it is chemically different when it exits the ice at the bottom of the sea-ice. Among other things, the micro-critter concentrates the element bromine.

Most of the time this makes little difference to the greater environment. Some bromine is removed from the seawater as the elevator starts down, and returned to the seawater when the elevator reaches the ground floor, which occurs when the droplet of brine exits the ice at the bottom of the sea-ice. But not all the micro-critters make this journey. Some get left behind. The elevator door slams in their face, back up at the top of the ice.

This brings up the mystery of how these critters got up there in the first place. If they are so superbly adapted to darkness and bitter cold and high salinity, how the heck do they survive in the summer’s sunlit seas? Don’t ask me; they just do it. Maybe they are dormant, but they are laying in wait for the first appearance of the next winter’s brine, and immediately thriving in the brine when it appears, which can be when the ice is a tenth of an inch thick and the brine is a thin layer of wetness atop that thin ice. These conditions also happen to be the same conditions needed for the formation of a beautiful arctic creation called “ice flowers”.

The creation of ice flowers has nothing to do with life, and rather has to do with a cardboard-thin layer of supersaturated air, just above the ice, which stimulates frost formations. This frost, it just so happens, is a perfect wick and sponge for brine, and sucks the brine up. You might wonder why the salt in the brine doesn’t immediately melt the ice crystals, and perhaps it does in some circumstances, but in other circumstances even being slightly higher off the ice, a hair’s breadth, plunges the brine into cold so frigid that it freezes. Salt has lost its capacity to melt ice. The micro-critters in the brine are frozen in place as well, along with their baggage of bromine. And I wish we could end the tale here, for the ice-flowers in the breathless quiet of arctic twilight are a beautiful sight.


Photo Credit: Matthias Wietz. From: http://www.polarmicrobes.org/?p=106  (Ice in this picture is only 1/16th of an inch thick)

However Nature, on this planet at least, is not frozen solid, and soon the winds rise, and it turns out the ice-flowers are fragile things. They are shattered by gusts, and turned into dust in the wind, but even the dust does not remain static, for the part of the frost that is water sublimates away, until the dust is mostly powdered salt, with, of course, trace amounts of micro-critters and their bromine. So fine and light is this dust that it hangs in the darkened air as haze, kept aloft by the lightest wafting, and when winds howl the haze can be lifted to the very top of the troposphere, and at the tropopause the micro-critters and their suitcases of Bromine get introduced this stuff called Ozone.

Now at this point your antennae should be waving wildly and you should be saying, “Danger! Danger! Danger, Will Robertson! Ozone Hole imminent!” But the real danger, if you are a Climate Scientist, is that the hole is not caused by man, but by micro-critters.

Therefore your job as a Climate Scientist, if you chose to accept it (and expect a grant), is to somehow demonstrate that man is responsible for those micro-critters being up there. Man has created a terrible increase of ice-flowers in the arctic, or some such thing. Man is master. Man is in control.

But those arctic micro-critters just laugh at us. They know who the real Boss is. They disobey one of the most fundamental scientific laws, by living their entire lives without ever needing a grant. They utterly ignore the dictates of the EPA. How dare they!

Where ordinary folk look upwards into dark winter skies and see the wonder and beauty of a star strewn infinitude, or the abrupt curtains of shimmering northern lights, and are glad, Climate Scientists skulk in dread. For they know that, for every micro-critter we know about, there are a thousand undiscovered, and all of them are laughing. When a Climate Scientist looks up, (which is seldom if he’s shackled by shame), he hears no music of angels, but rather the derision of countless criminal micro-critters, all imitating James Cagney (albeit in chipmunk voices), “Made it Ma! Top of the World”, before blowing up the fossil-fuel masquerade.

However I very much doubt micro-critters actually behave in Cagney’s unseemly manner. Rather I deem them wonderful, and part of a greater wonder, called Truth, which created all things, including us, (and even including poor, hapless Climate Scientists).

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November 12, 2015 1:24 am

Jolly good! Great read.

November 12, 2015 1:38 am

And the link to polarmicrobes.org is well worth following.
The previous article about an inverted sea-floor is a cool concept.

November 12, 2015 1:42 am

Wonderful post, Thank you, the sea is truly amazing….so much still to discover.

Reply to  meltemian
November 12, 2015 2:53 pm

melt old soul,
You’re obviously not off to the Paris Jamboree.
The science, actually, is settled.
Didn’t POTUS say there was nothing – zilch, nada, the cube root of fuck all – left to discover?
## ## Mods – have a guess. Yup – /Sarc to the power of a Sharknado . . .
But – yes, a grand post. Greatly appreciated.

Joe Zeise
November 12, 2015 2:10 am

Macroscopic view of the microcosm, awesome.

Reply to  Joe Zeise
November 12, 2015 10:11 pm

Give these critters a Nobel Prize!
Great post, Caleb Shaw

November 12, 2015 2:25 am

Thanks, Caleb. I think I have some brinicles in my refrigerator. That’s the only explanation I can think of for my high electricity bills, unless my rates have gone up. I’ll have to check.

Sandy In Limousin
November 12, 2015 2:33 am

Thanks for this posting essay from Sunrise’s Swansong. I visit Caleb’s site every couple of days as the articles there are always worth reading.

bit chilly
Reply to  Sandy In Limousin
November 12, 2015 6:10 am

seconded . this is another great piece of writing and thinking from caleb . keep up the good work.

November 12, 2015 2:37 am

Amazing introduction to polar microbiology. Thanks.

Reply to  Javier
November 12, 2015 7:28 pm

Polar microbiology-another discipline that “climate scientists” should be familiar with!

November 12, 2015 2:58 am

Excellent read, I love science..when its DONE- not when its waffle n spin, n models.
who woulda thunk it…its a cycle:-)

November 12, 2015 3:06 am

Man knows nothing. Many thanks for this piece of truth.

Mike the Morlock
November 12, 2015 3:33 am

Caleb Shaw
Thank you, I learned something this morning.

November 12, 2015 3:51 am

Great article.
Would love to see something similar about how Nature populates volcanic landscapes. Starting with lava to hot for any creature to survive, Nature slowly but surely takes over and life takes hold in the cooling new rock. Many of the lushest islands of the Pacific tropics started as sterile lava fields.

November 12, 2015 4:00 am

I am LIFE destroyer and creator of worlds.
Stasis is the true death, for in it nothing ever changes.
A beautifully written piece, my compliments to the author.

A C Osborn
November 12, 2015 4:03 am

Thanks for that Biology lesson Caleb.
Bacteria and micobes can exist and thrive virtually anywhere on earth from the Ice to the plumes exiting undersea volcanoes. They are the most plentiful creatures in the world and nothing would be alive without them and all their chemical conversions.
But compared to CO2 they are nothing, as they do not have it’s “magical powers” explained to us by all the warmists. /Sarc off

Taylor Pohlman
November 12, 2015 4:49 am

As a faithful follower of Caleb’s Sunrise Swansong site, it’s nice to see him get great exposure on WUWT. He’s opened my eyes to a wealth of data sources on Arctic conditions that present a balanced picture of what’s happening. If you’re just getting your information on sea ice conditions from NSIDC’s daily (and notoriously low balled) numbers, you’re missing the whole truth.

November 12, 2015 5:08 am

once you got away from the Continental Shelf the waters tended to become increasingly sterile
largely because many types of life need a surface to cling to. however if you have ever crossed an ocean in a boat you will find that life fouls the underside of the hull just as quickly on the high seas as it does near land.
the most amazing are some sort of gooseneck clam/barnacle, probably because they are so visible. they appear on the trailing edges of the rudder in just a few days and grow amazingly quickly. their neck (foot?) stuck firmly to the rudder, with their shell out behind in the slip stream. every day when you look over the transom, pretty much the first thing you see in the water is the trailing edge of the rudder, with these freeloaders clinging to the trailing edge.
of course when you dive the hull you realize these are just the canary in the coal mine. the hulls is covered with life, starting first with slime and algae. Once this gets a hold barnacles quickly follow, along with sponges, clams, mussels, etc.
But what about anti-fouling paint you ask. Surely you can place copper or tin paint on your hull. Well once upon a time copper worked, but lots of organisms seem pretty much immune to copper paint these days. Tin paint is available to the large ships, but banned for small craft because it still works.
So the solution is called self-ablating paint. This is the modern miracle of marine paint. It costs hundreds of dollars a gallon, and is mostly chalk. This quickly adds up as boats need many. many gallons of paint. As you move through the water it falls off, cleaning the hull as it does. For a couple of weeks until there is no paint left and you need another $5000 paint job.
So when someone says the oceans are sterile, just ask someone with a boat.

bit chilly
Reply to  ferdberple
November 12, 2015 6:12 am

yep, on a powered boat the first thing to check for when you lose a couple of knots of top end speed is not engine power, but marine life clinging to the hull.

Reply to  ferdberple
November 12, 2015 6:17 am

I don’t have a boat. But, as below, so above.
Almost every man-made surface on my property in damp and mild Somerset becomes rapidly covered in algae/slime and then it is tracked over by armies of hungry molluscs. Wherever they can gain purchase various lichens form. My guttering ends up full of lichens and mosses that have eventually been washed off the roof. So much so, that it occasionally blocks.
You just can’t stop life from flourishing everywhere. Especially not where there is warmth and humidity.
Those two things that are promised by model projections.
I seem to spend the larger quantity of my spare time battling to curb the continual rampaging of living things outside my door.
There’s nothing we can do – life will triumph. Explosively. And until the day that the earth is vapourized by its friend the Sun.

Reply to  indefatigablefrog
November 12, 2015 7:37 pm

Yup! Recent pictures of the land around Chernobyl, though still deadly to man are fluourishing like nothing ever happened.

Paul of Alexandria
Reply to  indefatigablefrog
November 14, 2015 10:26 am

Cue theme from Jurassic Park.

Reply to  ferdberple
November 12, 2015 12:01 pm

An astute observation, As a boat owner, I spend about $10/foot + annually in an effort to keep the bottom free from the critters with cooper base paint in the NE, imagine how much more difficult in the warmer Fla waters. Even so the metal underwater gear are more difficult to keep it clean.
Tin was superior, and I cannot understand why the fleet ad other large ships can use it, but I can’t. Also the difficulty of removing barnacles, etc. is a mystery for those who have tried to remove them.
You are right the waters are alive and swirling with all forms of marine life in the summer as the water warms, which I know little about. In the winter the water in lagoon is clear.
One wonders how little the CAGW folks understand this element of our waters, which have a major impact on humans and the planet.

Reply to  ferdberple
November 12, 2015 2:25 pm

Correct again ferdberple:
Those of us who like to fish the clear blue waters of deep ocean quickly learn to look for floating objects, weeds, weedlines, current edges and whatnot. Even one’s own little boat can attract small schools of dolphin fish; the brilliant colored chicken of the sea.
Years of reading boat paint cans and occasionally catching sales of ‘discontinued’ paint as one variety or another was removed from the market has convinced me that the worst thing a paint can be is effective.
Self-ablating paint. Fancy words for whitewash. I remember leaning against a whitewashed house as a child which left me coated in chalk dust for much of the day. There were days when I got the ‘teacher’s pet’ job of cleaning erasers that didn’t leave me so dusty.
Keep fishing and cruising!

Tom Judd
November 12, 2015 5:22 am

Wonderful. Thank you very much.

November 12, 2015 5:26 am

Speaking of microbes, I have read the the vast majority of the biomass is under the surface of the Earth, not on the surface. The surface life, which is all we experience, is just a thin film on a mass of dirt teeming with life? Anybody know the facts?
This sort of nearsightedness is what caused all the SciFi writers of another era to describe Earth as a green planet.

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  joel
November 12, 2015 12:08 pm

Nuclear-powered, subterranean microbes two miles down:
Others thrive on iron and oil, among other sources of food and energy:

j Wurts
Reply to  joel
November 12, 2015 8:14 pm

RE: the vast majority of the biomass is under the surface
Give this book a try,Thomas gold discusses this very topic.

Rex knight
November 12, 2015 5:36 am

A very enjoyable read, thank you.

November 12, 2015 5:37 am

It’s been a long time since Caleb’s last post here.
This one was well worth the wait.

Reply to  Ric Werme
November 12, 2015 7:24 pm

Thanks Ric. Praise means a lot when it’s from someone you have rubbed blog-elbows with with since before WUWT was created.
I haven’t posted because I’ve been going through a sort of slump. The 1960’s Boston Red Sox first baseman George Scott once described a slump this way: “When you’re hot a fastball looks like a basketball, but when you’re slumping it looks like an aspirin.” The same thing happens to me when I’m trying to write. Just as a ballplayer knows how to hit but can’t do it, I know what I want to say but can’t find the words. Just as ball players have a lot of superstitions, I do odd things like eat lots of fish because it is “brain food”.
In the end I just have to be patient. The mind keeps working on things we put on the back burner, and ideas gradually coalesce. Then one day I sit down and everything seems to magically come together. That’s what happened with this post. I had fun writing it, and it looks like people had fun reading it, which makes me happy as a clam.

November 12, 2015 6:27 am

A “matter of fact” tour de force. Great read, thanks very much.

Jim G1
Reply to  GTL
November 12, 2015 7:06 am


Ivor Ward
November 12, 2015 6:43 am

An excellent read. With the tenacity of the micro-critturs here on Earth it is hard to imagine that outer space can be sterile. As Bluebottle once said in the Goons. “Everybody has to be somewhere.” Perhaps we are not alone?

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Ivor Ward
November 12, 2015 12:15 pm

The increasingly plausible panspermia hypothesis was discussed in the comments to another post.
November 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm
“Meteorites are loaded with lots of amino acids and other complex organic compounds. They carry far more different organics than those which serve as the chemical constituents of living things.”
And so many “scientists” laughed at Fred Hoyle and pansperima. There is at least some evidence that life could have come from the cosmos — much more evidence than CO2 warms the surface by 33 degrees as the present delusion has it.

November 12, 2015 7:22 am

Here is another good read from Nature which needs to be backed up before it is disappeared:

November 12, 2015 7:37 am

Thank you for the very interesting essay. Now my project for the day has been delayed but I’ll begin with a sense of contentment.

James the Elder
November 12, 2015 7:57 am

This was like having Michael Buble as the closing act at Burning Man. My blood pressure has significantly fallen. You have added new facets to this old man’s continuing education, not to mention a few more bullets to my rhetorical gun. Thank you, Sir.

James Francisco
November 12, 2015 8:10 am

Could the growth on the ice be the reason the iceberg that the Titanic hit was not seen soon enough?

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  James Francisco
November 12, 2015 12:53 pm

Unlikely, IMO.
Icebergs are different from sea ice. They are land ice, chunks calved off of glaciers into the sea. Their bottoms do carry rocks and surface debris, which is how we know about Heinrich Events, however.

Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
November 12, 2015 7:49 pm

From what I have read atmospheric conditions were a contributing factor in the berg not being sighted in time.
I’ve also read in several sources the the ship would have survived had it hit the berg head on, as fewer compartments would have been flooded.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Gloateus Maximus
November 13, 2015 2:50 am

Broken sea- ice chunks adrift in Antarctic waters can be the size of ice counties, or ice countries.

November 12, 2015 8:34 am

Mr. Shaw, the content was excellent but what was even more impressive was your writing style. This was a most pleasurable read for a cold and dreary November morning. Thank you sir.

November 12, 2015 8:49 am

A very informative and well written post and to some extent a counter to the book that I have just picked up from the local library : “After the Ice ” by Alun Anderson. Published in 2009 , the result of research undertaken in 2007/8 by the author , a research biologist , and science journalist (former editor of New scientist) . It too is well written and the introduction alone, recounting the images of ice collapse seen by the AMSR-E satellite, is likely to turn the average sceptic into an Al Gore cheer leader .
Looking for other work by this writer I have only so far found an interview with Laura Sevier (LS ) for the ecologist , from which this extract will indicate the commitment of the author (AA) and indicate perhaps how, with good writing, a generation can be easily influenced:
–“LS: Arctic sea ice has been retreating over the past 30 years. Estimates for an ice-free sea in Summer range from 2015 to 2045. What are the implications of this?
AA: It’s an absolute catastrophe for all the creatures that depend on ice that live up there. Once you have really ice free summers it’s very difficult to see how some of them can survive. The worst affected of all of course will be the polar bear because it is so dependent on using ice to go out and hunt the seals.
As sea ice melts and the water warms, much warmer air will flow over the surrounding Arctic lands and the Greenland ice cap will melt faster. As it melts faster, glaciers are speeding up and flowing into the sea faster, so we are looking at certainly a metre’s rise this century if you take the Antarctic and the global expansion of the oceans into account too. So that’s a lot.
LS: You say in your book that it’s too late to stop the warming dead in its tracks by cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. Have we reached a tipping point with the arctic ice?
AA: I believe we have reached a tipping point with the arctic ice where anything that is politically plausible now will not save the ice. However, we can still reduce the warming on the wider arctic – the arctic lands – so that we have a chance to stop the runaway emissions of methane or at least to slow it down and make it happen over thousands of years instead of hundreds.
But on the arctic ice it’s too late. I haven’t met a single scientist who thinks there’s anything we can do now that can save the sea ice in total. We might get some of it left in the corners of the Canadian islands which will be a very important refuge for the polar bear and other creatures.”–
I looked to see whether this author had been the subject of a WUWT post or comment , but apparently not. However I am sure someone here has encountered the book and I would be interested in their reactions to it (before I send off a cheque to Greenpeace and march off to Paris carrying a placard).

Reply to  mikewaite
November 12, 2015 9:06 am

Perhaps it is important to note that there is one who is never swayed by propaganda, and she is, mother nature.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  mikewaite
November 12, 2015 1:58 pm

But on the arctic ice it’s too late. I haven’t met a single scientist who thinks there’s anything we can do now that can save the sea ice in total.

Now where have I heard this before?

Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.

Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich
Inaugural “Earth Day”, 1970
One lousy prediction does not of course invalidate another, but it does suggest that Alan Anderson is talking only to a narrow spectrum of scientists. He certainly has not consulted this gentleman:

The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.

Kenneth Watt [no relation], ecologist
PhD Zoology, University of Chicago
Inaugural “Earth Day”, 1970
In fact, it’s instructive to review the predictions made on the first Earth Day.

Reply to  mikewaite
November 12, 2015 4:11 pm

“…whether this author had been the subject of a WUWT post or comment…”

Try seeking Anthony’s permission and then request that/those authors to post an article here.
On other tracks: You have not been keeping up with Arctic sea ice for the last few years, have you?
Sea ice is in no danger of melting soon; and quite likely not for the rest of this century.
As far as your supporting greenpeace: Fine, just be aware you are giving money and planning to participate with an organization that has been charged and convicted of acts of piracy.
Ninth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals.
Deep Sea news.
Perspectives on Terrorism.
Eco-terrorism and acts of piracy on the high seas.
Greenpeace, false facts and propaganda.
Just take a look at any of the greenpeace photos and videos. For a bunch of folks who claim to against almost all modern society conveniences, it is clear that none of the activists believe they personally should give up those conveniences.
Greenpeace has been banned from India and Russia. Greenpeace’s last experience with Russia involved temporary incarceration for the activists involved. Whatever Russia informed greenpeace regarding their actions, greenpeace has backed way off disturbing any more Russian activities or equipment. I suspect that Russia has informed the greenpeace pirates that their next assault on Russian gear or people may result in more permanent punishment.
Greenpeace shows complete disregard for human rights, civilization, genuine science, civil discourse, world starvation and progress.
Go ahead, give greenpeas all of your money and march with liars and delusional folks. Birds of a feather and all that.

Reply to  mikewaite
November 12, 2015 8:05 pm

I wonder if any of those who worry about the “endangerment” of polar bears are aware that they are brown bears that adapted to their environment.

Reply to  Rascal
November 14, 2015 2:23 pm

That adaptation has enabled polar bears to spend enormous amounts of time living in water. Most bears just swim. Polar bears successfully chase and catch aquatic life.
It isn’t proven, but it has been suggested that polar bears may have the most sensitive and effective olfactory system.
Smelling blood or rotten meat several miles away is one thing when the temperature is quite warm, it is entirely different when the temperature is well below zero.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  mikewaite
November 13, 2015 2:18 am

Our gracious host (and the Mods) have requested that we use “sarc tags” when appropriate, to avoid confusion.

November 12, 2015 9:28 am

A wonderful combination of art, science and beauty in this piece. Many thanks.

November 12, 2015 9:47 am

Great post Caleb. Why is it that farmers make such good, knowledgable scientists?

Taylor Pohlman
Reply to  Bob Mount
November 13, 2015 5:17 am

Because for farmers, there are actually serious consequences for making wrong predictions. Paul Erlich can go on his merry way, no pay cut for him, but the farmer risks his livelihood and his property. I’ve found that facing risk powerfully focuses the mind – no such opportunity for the ivory-tower dwellers.

Reply to  Taylor Pohlman
November 14, 2015 2:27 pm

Adding to your comment Taylor:
Farmers are gregarious with fellow farmers and exchange news and views. A farmer that started farming in the 1960s, often farmed near farmers who farmed during the 1930s and 40s. Exchanges of information taught many farmers to be patient regarding weather, crops and wildlife.

November 12, 2015 9:48 am

great read. good introduction to the evolution of ecosystems. I especially like the clarity with which he made it clear that the is no “end state” of balance

Gloateus Maximus
November 12, 2015 10:31 am

Microbes live in subglacial Antarctic lake:

Gloateus Maximus
November 12, 2015 10:34 am
November 12, 2015 10:51 am

What a wonderful wonderful post! This stuff should be taught in schools. This has raised my spirits no end. Thank you Caleb.

Reply to  A.D. Everard
November 12, 2015 11:38 am

Second that and extend my thanks to Caleb and Anthony.

November 12, 2015 11:46 am

Beautifully written, engaging and profoundly informative. Thanks for helping us all regain and rest – even if for a moment – in the awe of the world around us.

November 12, 2015 12:24 pm

Mr Shaw,
Excellent post, enlightening for me, thanks.

November 12, 2015 1:38 pm

Natural oil spills, natural coal combustion, natural methane emissions and natural bromine in the ozone. I just love it.
I wish people would not hate the halogens. Halogens are useful. That is, if a culture wants to utilize science in everyday life, and have a balanced diet.

Will Nelson
November 12, 2015 4:27 pm

“They are attempting to root upon a surface that is constantly melting away beneath their feet.”
It’s their little teeny tiny Ugg boots that have so much grip.

November 12, 2015 6:09 pm

Thank you Mr. Shaw. Wonderful writing and inspiring and informative. Life is the rule not the exception it so seems. Micro-critters appear to hitch rides on meteors even in the depth’s of space!

November 12, 2015 8:01 pm

Beautiful prose. Beautiful subject. As though my very soul was touched. And brilliant humor.
Thank you Anthony. Choose my reading for me anytime.
Caleb Shaw should win a Pulitzer.

November 12, 2015 8:05 pm

It has been a wet, rainy day, and I can’t say how nice it has been to come home from work and read everyone’s kind comments. Usually I figure I’m going to get some nice comments, but also taken to task for my errors, and perhaps receive a few cheap shots from a passing troll. This evening has been like a sheer bath of flattery, which I’m not used to. It makes a welcome change.
It was very nice to watch my wife’s face as she read all the kind comments. She’s the one who has to put up with me zoning out on the internet so much, when I should be putting wood on the fire. Sometimes she has to nag me, “Hey you, the house is getting cold. Put wood on the fire.” So you might think she would disapprove of kind comments, thinking they might encourage me to zone out more rather than less. Instead she seemed to get more pleasure from the flattery than I did.
After she had read the comments, but before she got around to reading the actual post, she asked me some interesting questions about the post. What was it about? What was I trying to do?
I figure my posts are already pared to the bone, taking a expansive idea and saying it in as few words as possible, so I usually tell people to read the post, if they want to know what I was trying to say. However wives don’t go for that sort of response, so I had to try to be more succinct, and decided the safe reply was this:
Alarmists are alarmed by just about everything, and live in a state of chronic worry. Therefore, if you oppose them, you simply refuse to descend to their level, and refuse to worry as much as they worry. Rather you point out nature is natural. It is not nature that has gone beyond a tipping point, but rather it is the anxiety of Alarmists.
You’d be amazed the trouble you can get into for saying this, which is why I am so unaccustomed to praise, and is why this evening is so much fun and so special.

November 12, 2015 11:08 pm

Been reading you for a couple months now. always appreciate the read and suggest you should find a publisher. If you aren’t already link us to your book.

Alan Robertson
November 13, 2015 2:04 am

A great read- thanks, Caleb Shaw.
This is something else I didn’t know, but now do, thanks to WUWT and company.

Scottish Sceptic
November 13, 2015 4:21 am

The best line: “They disobey one of the most fundamental scientific laws, by living their entire lives without ever needing a grant.” – so very apt for modern “science”.

November 13, 2015 8:00 am

I too found this an enjoyable read, and very informative too. It painted a wonderful picture of the frozen North and the wonders of microbes.
I do however have one gripe. “Now at this point your antennae should be waving wildly and you should be saying, “Danger! Danger! Danger, Will Robertson! Ozone Hole imminent!” But the real danger, if you are a Climate Scientist, is that the hole is not caused by man, but by micro-critters.
Therefore your job as a Climate Scientist, if you chose to accept it (and expect a grant), is to somehow demonstrate that man is responsible for those micro-critters being up there.”
Yet within the NOAA pages on ozone depletion I read “Natural sources of these two gases contributed about 17% of the chlorine in the stratosphere in 2008 and about 30% of the bromine…”
It seems that far from trying to claim man is responsible for bromine in the stratosphere, the scientists are very happy to acknowledge natural sources. Your claim the a climate scientists would try to prove that man is responsible for the micro critters is without foundation.
But apart from that and excellent and informative piece.

November 13, 2015 12:57 pm

Thanks for your thoughts. Once I recovered from the pleasurable shock of so many flattering comments, I was starting to worry slightly about the complete absence of cantankerous scientific inquiry.
Your comment points out the danger of utilizing humor. Whenever I poke fun at climate scientists I feel a bit bad about the spillover that besmirches good ones such as Roy Spencer and Judith Curry. I just hope they understand hyperbole and forgive me.
However your claim that my claim is without foundation is not founded on the reading I’ve done. I can’t link you to sources right now, but there are plenty of papers that at least insinuate man has altered the levels of bromine in the atmosphere.
The entire subject of the “Ozone Hole” can be surprisingly explosive, as it is far from settled science. There is a great deal of “uncertainty” (I actually prefer the word “mystery”) about the chemistry of the upper atmosphere, about how it varies in seasonal and decadal manners, and the degree (if any) man effects the levels of various components. Then, beyond the chemistry of the chemicals, there are various rays from our sun and distant stars, magnetic forces, gravitational tugging, and perhaps even a micro-critter or two that lives up there and nowhere else. The subject should be a source of wonder and continuing research, and anyone who now dons a white coat and pretends to speak with confidence about exact numbers is, in my humble opinion, putting on a target for the gunners of lampoons.

Reply to  Caleb
November 14, 2015 9:27 am

“but there are plenty of papers that at least insinuate man has altered the levels of bromine in the atmosphere. ” Not just insinuate. The NOAA source says that 70% of the bromine is from manmade sources. But that is not inconsistent with acknowledging that there are also natural sources.
Anyway, I hope my cantankerous enquiry has eased your slight worry:)

November 13, 2015 3:42 pm

Thanks so much for a great post. Bookmarked and referenced for the future.

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