Guest essay by Eric Worrall
In the wake of his failed 2016 “ice free” prediction, Dr. Peter Wadhams has spoken up, claiming most scientists are frightened to speak up about the climate crisis – though he admits his confidence in predicting exact dates has taken a dive.
Dahr Jamail | Arctic Expert on Sea Ice: We Could “Reach Zero” Within Two Years
Arctic sea ice is in big trouble.
This is bad news for multiple reasons, the primary one being that Arctic sea ice helps keep the polar regions cool along with working to moderate the entire global climate.
“Sea ice has a bright surface; 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes it is reflected back into space,” explains the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s website. “As sea ice melts in the summer, it exposes the dark ocean surface. Instead of reflecting 80 percent of the sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90 percent of the sunlight. The oceans heat up, and Arctic temperatures rise further.”
Truthout: Numerous people have predicted the vanishing of the Arctic sea ice in summer, including a US Navy study that predicted it by this summer, but they’ve all been too early in their predictions. Why do you feel confident about predicting that summer Arctic sea ice will disappear in either 2017 or 2018 at the latest?
Dr. Peter Wadhams: I don’t feel confident — it’s simply that this is the trend shown by the sea ice volume in recent years, and since that volume is now quite small, it ought to reach zero within one to two more years. But, of course, something could happen to change that.
We have reported quite extensively on the threat of increasing amounts of methane being released as permafrost melts. Why should people be concerned about methane releases in the Arctic, and the fact that these are increasing?
We have modeled what would happen if the rate of emission increased radically to be equivalent to a 50-gigaton pulse (predicted by the Russian scientists who work on offshore methane). It would give a 0.6C boost to global warming immediately — which is a very large figure.
You have been outspoken and frank about how rapidly the situation is changing in the Arctic. Why do you suppose more scientists aren’t being as outspoken in their alarm and concern over what is happening there and what it means to the planet?
Career considerations: If they speak out, they fear that it will upset their promotion prospects, so they keep their heads down.
Any final thoughts you’d like to leave with our readers?
As a final point, sea ice retreat from the Greenland Sea has prevented the formation of chimneys — deep cylinders through which surface water sinks to great depths. This slows the thermohaline circulation [the movement of seawater in a pattern of flow dependent on variations in temperature, which give rise to changes in salt content and hence in density], which will result in cooling — or slower warming — of the Northwestern Atlantic coastline (e.g. Britain) and faster warming of the tropical Atlantic (e.g. more intense hurricanes).
If I’ve understood correctly, we can now expect sea ice to melt away in 2 years (maybe), an imminent 0.6c spike from methane, and a potentially severe drop in Northern temperatures thanks to interruption of the Thermohaline circulation, the “Day after Tomorrow” scenario.
Settled science, anyone?