Half of the polar ice cap is missing: Arctic sea ice hits a new record low

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:53 PM GMT on September 06, 2012

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Extraordinary melting of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has shattered the all-time low sea ice extent record set in September 2007, and sea ice continues to decline far below what has ever been observed. The new sea ice record was set on August 26, a full three weeks before the usual end of the melting season, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Every major scientific institution that tracks Arctic sea ice agrees that new records for low ice area, extent, and volume have been set. These organizations include the University of Washington Polar Science Center (a new record for low ice volume), the Nansen Environmental & Remote Sensing Center in Norway, and the University of Illinois Cryosphere Today. A comprehensive collection of sea ice graphs shows the full story. Satellite records of sea ice extent date back to 1979, though a 2011 study by Kinnard et al. shows that the Arctic hasn't seen a melt like this for at least 1,450 years (see a more detailed article on this over at skepticalscience.com.) The latest September 5, 2012 extent of 3.5 million square kilometers is approximately a 50% reduction in the area of Arctic covered by sea ice, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. The ice continues to melt, and has not reached the low for this year yet.


Figure 1. A sunny, slushy day at the North Pole on September 1, 2012. Webcam image courtesy of the North Pole Environmental Observatory.


Figure 2. Sea ice extent on September 5, 2012, showed that half of the polar ice cap was missing, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Why the Arctic sea ice is important
Arctic sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The polar ice caps help to regulate global temperature by reflecting sunlight back into space. White snow and ice at the poles reflects sunlight, but dark ocean absorbs it. Replacing bright sea ice with dark ocean is a recipe for more and faster global warming. The Autumn air temperature over the Arctic has increased by 4 - 6°F in the past decade, and we could already be seeing the impacts of this warming in the mid-latitudes, by an increase in extreme weather events. Another non-trivial impact of the absence of sea ice is increased melting in Greenland. We already saw an unprecedented melting event in Greenland this year, and as warming continues, the likelihood of these events increase.


Figure 3. August set a new record for lowest Arctic sea ice extent. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.



Figure 4. Arctic sea ice death spiral as plotted by Jim Pettit using data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Huge storm pummels Alaska
A massive low pressure system with a central pressure of 970 mb swept through Alaska on Tuesday, generating hurricane-force wind gusts near Anchorage, Alaska that knocked out power to 55,000 homes. Mighty Alaskan storms like this are common in winter, but rare in summer and early fall. The National Weather Service in Anchorage said in their Wednesday forecast discussion that the forecast wind speeds from this storm were incredibly strong for this time of year--four to six standard anomalies above normal. A four-standard anomaly event occurs once every 43 years, and a five-standard anomaly event is a 1-in-4800 year event. However, a meteorologist I heard from who lives in the Anchorage area characterized the wind damage that actually occurred as a 1-in-10 year event. A few maximum wind gusts recorded on Tuesday during the storm:

McHugh Creek (Turnagain Arm)... ... ..88 mph
Paradise Valley (Potter Marsh)... ... 75 mph
Upper Hillside (1400 ft)... ... ... ... 70 mph
Anchorage port... ... ... ... ... ... ... .63 mph

The storm has weakened to a central pressure of 988 mb today, and is located just north of Alaska. The storm is predicted to bring strong winds of 25 - 35 mph and large waves to the edge of the record-thin and record-small Arctic ice cap, and may add to the unprecedented decline in Arctic sea ice being observed this summer.


Figure 5. An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color mosaic image on Aug. 6, 2012. The center of the storm at that date was located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Image credit: NASA.

Arctic storms may be increasing due to climate change
This week's Alaskan storm is the second unusually strong low pressure system to affect the Arctic in the past month. On August 4 - 8, a mighty storm with a central pressure of 963 mb raged through the Arctic, bringing strong winds that helped scatter and break up Arctic sea ice. According to a detailed post at NASA Earth Observatory, that storm was in the top 3 percent for strongest storms ever recorded north of 70 degrees latitude. A study of long-term Arctic cyclone trends authored by a team led by John Walsh and Xiangdong Zhang of the University of Alaska Fairbanks found that number and intensity of Arctic cyclones has increased during the second half of the twentieth century, particularly during the summer. Dr. Zhang explained that climate change has caused sea ice to retreat markedly in recent decades and has also warmed Arctic Ocean temperatures. Such changes may be providing more energy and moisture to support cyclone development and persistence. The strong storms of this week and a month ago would have had far less impact on the ice just a decade ago, when the sea ice was much thicker and more extensive.

A sea ice decline double-whammy
The monster Arctic storms like we've seen this year have sped up the rate of sea ice loss, but increased water temperatures and air temperatures due to human-caused global warming are the dominant reasons for the record melting of the Arctic sea ice. A July 2012 study by Day et al. found that the most influential of the possible natural influences on sea ice loss was the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO). The AMO has two phases, negative (cold) and positive (warm), which impact Arctic sea ice. The negative phase tends to create sea surface temperatures in the far north Atlantic that are colder than average. In this study, the AMO only accounted for 5% - 31% of the observed September sea ice decline since 1979. The scientists concluded that given the lack of evidence that natural forces were controlling sea ice fluctuations, the majority of sea ice decline we've seen during the 1953 - 2010 period was due to human causes.

Joe Romm has a more in-depth look at the new Arctic sea ice record and what it means for the future over at climateprogess.org.

Angela Fritz and Jeff Masters

Turbulence (katy99780)
Beautiful orographic formations over the mountains on a windy evening.
Turbulence

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Some of these posts tonight seem to be a bit about getting one up on someone else, and who can swing the biggest proverbial stick. How about we try respect, compassion, and common sence? No matter who "wins" the GW debate, we will still be here spinning around on the same planet. We can at least be nice to each other.
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CRANKS LOSE COURT CASE AGAINST NZ TEMPERATURE RECORD, NIWA AWARDED COSTS

by GARETH on SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

The attempt by NZ%u2019s merry little band of climate cranks to have the NZ temperature record declared invalid has ended in ignominious defeat. In his ruling [PDF], handed down today, Justice Venning finds:

The plaintiff does not succeed on any of its challenges to the three decisions of NIWA in issue. The application for judicial review is dismissed and judgment entered for the defendant. [and] The defendant is entitled to costs.

http://hot-topic.co.nz/cranks-lose-court-case-aga inst-nz-temperature-record-niwa-awarded-costs/
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Quoting StormHype:
I'm curious to see how many climate change activist support the use of nuclear energy. It is the only current practical large scale form of energy that is free of CO2 emissions.

The US hasn't built a nuke plant since getting spooked by 3-mile Island in the last 1970s.

Europe (mainly Germany) got spooked from Japan's accident with their reckless handling of their ancient reactor and said they are phasing out nukes. Europe just signed contracts to buy *record* amounts of coal from the US over the next few years.

China is going full speed ahead building dozens of state-of-the-art pebble bed reactors, along with dozens of coal plants. Their drive is more demand than anything environmental.

Personally, I see Nuke plants as a way forward.
Yes, I know all the issues with waste and the potential for bad stuff.
But I can't believe that we cannot build plants that are safe and that we cannot find a solution to the safe disposal of the waste.

It may be a good option to build smaller, more easily maintained plants all over the place rather than huge things with bigger potential for accidents.

It's basically a big kettle for boiling water, with fusion or fission as the heat source.
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Just popped back in. I think it's very difficult to talk about GW without getting into anything political, honestly. Any discussion of "what to do" is going to wind up hitting on some of that.

I have tried hard to keep that geared toward policy and gov't roles for the most part instead of heading off into partisan whatever -- I think parties matter very little in this, honestly, and it's a global issue, so US politics are just one piece of the puzzle. But I do see how hard it is to not stray pretty far, and apologize if I've overstepped anywhere.
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Quoting sar2401:


Are those the same as what we call Eucalyptus trees in Californa? I think those originally came from Australia. The Santa Fe Railroad imported them to use for railroad ties (sleepers) and found out the wood was too brittle for such use. They make good windbreaks, however, so farmers planted them everywhere. As I'm sure you know, they go up like torches in a wildfire, so it wasn't such a good idea.

Yes, those are the same. I have seen a whole tree burst into flames with fire around it's base. The Eucalyptus oil is very flammable. Also when it evaporates, in the atmosphere it can be seen as blue. Hence the name, Blue Mountains, they are 99.9% Eucalyptus trees(gum trees).
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Quoting Ossqss:


Feel free to check the image origination point.

We learned all about the glaciers and Great Lake formation in Geophysical science last year. It was pretty interesting and their affects can still be seen here today besides the lakes.
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Quoting pottery:

Hang on...
They only became the worst offenders very recently.
The US has been the worst for a very long time.

The US is STILL the world leader in influence (but fading fast).
It is not good enough to say "we can't do this/that, because someone else is not going to do it too..."

Looking on from Outside, it's plain to see that the US population is split 50-50 on just about any and every conceivable thing.
Mostly due to political sway and party loyalties. Regardless of the importance of the Issue at hand.

You are Unique in this regard, you know.


That's because I'm a Libertarian. :-)

A good root topic for a new blog post would be the rate of change of CO2 emissions of China vs the US. China has 1.5B people, the US has 350M. Chinese are experiencing the most rapid increase of standard of living in history, which means many are buying autos and air-conditioners for the first time. It's that rate of change that we need to pay attention to here, not absolute amounts.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1204
Quoting RitaEvac:
Looking at visible loops over SE TX a gravity wave plowed due south over us today.


Had one over Yell county, Ark. last year, October'ish I think. It was a REALLY well defined & down-right startling. Even made the 10 o'clock news, caught by several webcams over it's couple hundred mile track before either dissipating or night-time arriving.

Was the 1st one I had been directly under, so it caused me to stop everything for several minutes, wondering just what this thing was. I have a fully automated astro-observatory on a hill in back of my pastures, equipped with a couple of really nice all-sky cams. If I had dropped what I was doing immediately & rushed to a computer, I think I could have gotten the cams started & recalibrated for daytime, thus providing a really cool video of it going over. But moving as fast as it was, everything would have had to click just right, especially recalibrating the cams from night-ops to day.

As it were however, the fact I stood there dumbfounded for a few minutes ruined any chance of that happening. I didn't even think about grabbing 1 of the 2 DSLR's which I had brought down from the observatory to the house that morning for maintanance. So I wound up with memories & nothing else. :(

But GOOD memories, since one of those gravity waves are truly spectacular when they seem to be only a few hundred feet over your head.
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Quoting sar2401:


That probably means big trouble for bush fires down there. Hope things are OK.

Yeah, there is currently 2 fires of control around Sydney. One is south and the other is west in the Blue Mountains. Both started from hazard reduction burns. There is also a more severe fair up the far north east of NSW which is causing major concern.
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Quoting Ossqss:



I wondered where all those big lakes came from. :)
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Check this loop.

I can definitely see the front, stay safe. Cool loop, hopefully the fires don't get aggravated more by the winds.
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Quoting Doppler22:

not my notion... the admins


OK, I assume you're not an admin. In that case, let them handle it as they see fit, and you can post what you think is within guidelines.
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Quoting wxchaser97:

Must be the cold front, everything should be fine. I experienced a cold front passage on Lake Michigan, one of the coolest weather events I was through.

Check this loop.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
I am getting slammed big time from strong winds. Sustained is 20kts gusts up to 40kts. That's tropical storm force


That probably means big trouble for bush fires down there. Hope things are OK.
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I'm curious to see how many climate change activist support the use of nuclear energy. It is the only current practical large scale form of energy that is free of CO2 emissions.

The US hasn't built a nuke plant since getting spooked by 3-mile Island in the last 1970s.

Europe (mainly Germany) got spooked from Japan's accident with their reckless handling of their ancient reactor and said they are phasing out nukes. Europe just signed contracts to buy *record* amounts of coal from the US over the next few years.

China is going full speed ahead building dozens of state-of-the-art pebble bed reactors, along with dozens of coal plants. Their drive is more demand than anything environmental.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1204
Quoting AussieStorm:
Gales send turbines into overdrive
Good news that the turbines are proving very effective there, Aussie.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

These comments are about Climate change, which is a blog topic. So all comments are on topic.

Here is a photo I just took looking out the front window. Those gum trees are about 150ft tall. This is looking south.



Are those the same as what we call Eucalyptus trees in Californa? I think those originally came from Australia. The Santa Fe Railroad imported them to use for railroad ties (sleepers) and found out the wood was too brittle for such use. They make good windbreaks, however, so farmers planted them everywhere. As I'm sure you know, they go up like torches in a wildfire, so it wasn't such a good idea.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
I am getting slammed big time from strong winds. Sustained is 20kts gusts up to 40kts. That's tropical storm force

Must be the cold front, everything should be fine. I experienced a cold front passage on Lake Michigan, one of the coolest weather events I was through.
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Quoting Doppler22:

not my notion... the admins

Where does it says Climate change and politics is in breach of blog rules? It's on topic.
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I am getting slammed big time from strong winds. Sustained is 20kts gusts up to 40kts. That's tropical storm force
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Feel free to check the image origination point.
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Quoting sar2401:


And how will one discuss climate change without government and politics coming into it? That's like saying we're on a car forum and we cannot discuss the price of gas and what causes the price of gas to fluctuate, especially when the blog owner just entertained us with a blog about the price of gas. As long as people keep it civil, I have no idea where you get the notion anyone will be banned.

not my notion... the admins
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Gales send turbines into overdrive
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Quoting Doppler22:
Im warning u guys...... Admin will ban all the people talking about the government/politics... Weather blog and weather only is what admin accepts (Plus climate change due to the topic of Jeffs post).... Just warning u


And how will one discuss climate change without government and politics coming into it? That's like saying we're on a car forum and we cannot discuss the price of gas and what causes the price of gas to fluctuate, especially when the blog owner just entertained us with a blog about the price of gas. As long as people keep it civil, I have no idea where you get the notion anyone will be banned.
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Quoting StormHype:


Right. Policy change in an incentivizing way, not a punishing way & fruitless, such as a carbon tax.

You have to remember too that if Asia doesn't play into this, we all might as well just throw in the towel and burn old tires for energy. They are the *worst* offenders, and will flip the bird to anything the US Federal govt tries to push out on them.

Hang on...
They only became the worst offenders very recently.
The US has been the worst for a very long time.

The US is STILL the world leader in influence (but fading fast).
It is not good enough to say "we can't do this/that, because someone else is not going to do it too..."

Looking on from Outside, it's plain to see that the US population is split 50-50 on just about any and every conceivable thing.
Mostly due to political sway and party loyalties. Regardless of the importance of the Issue at hand.

You are Unique in this regard, you know.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

These comments are about Climate change, which is a blog topic. So all comments are on topic.

Here is a photo I just took looking out the front window. Those gum trees are about 150ft tall. This is looking south.


Really?? The ones im seeing have nothing to do with climate change.............. posting about climate change 100% ok.... how governments have probs... 0% ok
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Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:


Movement from within winds up hitting a roadblock, unfortunately, at the place where this intersects with policy and with corporate desire for ever cheaper inputs.

I'd say industry seeking out the cheapest possible inputs is more what got us here today, in climate terms. We're unlikely to find cheaper energy than fossil fuels.

And while there are any number of us already doing what we can figure out to do in our own lives, we're overwhelmed by the vast emissions that come from industry standards and the very many people who would rather not think about it.

My preferred route would be to provide very strong incentives to help vast numbers of people actually afford to make big changes. But that's a tough sell in this political climate.
Here's an idea.....how about we forgive each homeowners property tax for 5 years and let each apply it to their home to make it more energy efficient.....Solar panels, etc etc. In that amount of time we could save trillions... but wait....They want you to use energy so that will never happen.

Their control is what is stopping us.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I'm not sure how politics are relevant to anything Dr. Masters and/or Angela mentioned in their blog entry earlier today. Take it elsewhere, guys.

They aren't relevant at all, weather and climate change are but the politics need to go( back to AP Gov).
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Quoting Doppler22:
Im warning u guys...... Admin will ban all of u ppl for all these government/political related posts... Weather blog and weather only is what admin accepts.... Just warning u

These comments are about Climate change, which is a blog topic. So all comments are on topic.

Here is a photo I just took looking out the front window. Those gum trees are about 150ft tall. This is looking south.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I'm not sure how politics are relevant to anything Dr. Masters and/or Angela mentioned in their blog entry earlier today. Take it elsewhere, guys.


Politics is incredibly relevant to AGW.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting StormHype:


Right. Policy change in an incentivizing way, not a punishing way & fruitless, such as a carbon tax.

You have to remember too that if Asia doesn't play into this, we all might as well just throw in the towel and burn old tires for energy. They are the *worst* offenders, and will flip the bird to anything the US Federal govt tries to push out on them.

ok if u didnt know.... i was kinda talking to u.... i wuld stop with the government posts... u'll get banned... plus people come here to here about weather not government...
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I'm not sure how politics are relevant to anything Dr. Masters and/or Angela mentioned in their blog entry earlier today. Take it elsewhere, guys.
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Quoting Abacosurf:
Government got us to where we are today. Too much of it is going to kill us period.

It will take a movement from within to make a difference.



baaad ol govment build all them roads, bridges, and skoolz. Heck, those evil basterds even funded research on computers, medicine, and improvements to agriculture, horticulture, and forestry. We's don need all that stuff. lez go back to livin like themz good ol' days when life expectency was 40.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Looks like Leslie will be going fishing!!
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Quoting katy99780:
I am so glad to see the topic of the melting Arctic polar cap, it is 100% relevant to any discussion of global climate change. It is happening much faster here up north than it is in lower latitudes, and this time of year seems to be the most pronounced.

I am not an expert on anything, and many of you are, but let me say this: coastal Alaska is eroding at an alarming rate because of missing shore-fast ice in fall and winter. Storms are more frequent and stronger, and seem to be occurring earlier than in years previous.

There is no question that there is less ice this autumn on the polar ice cap, and there is no question that the ice that is there is thinner and weaker, and old ice is becoming less and less a part of the cumulative ice pack. You all know better than I that new ice, when it forms, will melt faster next spring/summer, which in turn contributes to an overall general warming of the Arctic, and then melting even more of that old, previously 'always there' ice. A downward spiral.

It is affecting all of you, all over the planet, whether you believe in it or not.

I know I am way out of my league posting on this blog.

Thank you Dr Masters and Angela for addressing this, it is an overlooked topic.




Good post.

You don't need to be an expert on anything.
You need to be aware and sensible, like you are.
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Quoting yoboi:


how strong will elnino be in nov?



Ask me that in nov
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I am so glad to see the topic of the melting Arctic polar cap, it is 100% relevant to any discussion of global climate change. It is happening much faster here up north than it is in lower latitudes, and this time of year seems to be the most pronounced.

I am not an expert on anything, and many of you are, but let me say this: coastal Alaska is eroding at an alarming rate because of missing shore-fast ice in fall and winter. Storms are more frequent and stronger, and seem to be occurring earlier than in years previous.

There is no question that there is less ice this autumn on the polar ice cap, and there is no question that the ice that is there is thinner and weaker, and old ice is becoming less and less a part of the cumulative ice pack. You all know better than I that new ice, when it forms, will melt faster next spring/summer, which in turn contributes to an overall general warming of the Arctic, and then melting even more of that old, previously 'always there' ice. A downward spiral.

It is affecting all of you, all over the planet, whether you believe in it or not.

I know I am way out of my league posting on this blog.

Thank you Dr Masters and Angela for addressing this, it is an overlooked topic.



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344. yoboi
Quoting Tazmanian:
90L rip what's talk about snow


how strong will elnino be in nov?
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2344
Quoting Doppler22:
Im warning u guys...... Admin will ban all of u ppl for all these government/political related posts... Weather blog and weather only is what admin accepts.... Just warning u

Well weather and, since the topic is climate change, climate change.
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90L rip what's talk about snow
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Im warning u guys...... Admin will ban all the people talking about the government/politics... Weather blog and weather only is what admin accepts (Plus climate change due to the topic of Jeffs post).... Just warning u
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

How's winter down there Aussie?

Winter is finished, Now in to spring. Check out my post @ #334. Pretty much sums up how our winter was down here.
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Quoting StormHype:


Absolutely... big govts fail miserably trying to do stuff and at a huge expense. Could be an effort to invade Iraq & Iran, stimulus grants to Solyndra, housing bailouts, etc. Either way... same result. Nothing to show, but monster debt to pay. The only thing they can do to actually help us is to make changes to *policy* to incentivize citizens themselves to make good things happen at a more grass roots level suited to their region, state, or county.

Actually, only when Big Business/Capitalism/Free Enterprise decides that the time is "right" (for them), will we see true advances in the reduction of the stuff that makes the Planet warmer.

Currently, Governments (Most of them) are powerless to suggest/mandate/legislate for meaningful changes.

When Corporate World Power is ready, things will happen.
But the profit has to be assured. And right now, everything is cool. For them.
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This looks a little nasty...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21417
Quoting AussieStorm:
Here comes a very strong cold front.


Loop.

How's winter down there Aussie?
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And I officially have to go, so no further responses from me. I'm glad to see discussion on it, anyway.
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Quoting Xyrus2000:


You can find temperature records for much of the globe freely available online. For example, you can check out the GISS site where you can get all kinds of data products.

Add the numbers up yourself. You can clearly see much of the northern hemisphere was abnormally warm this past winter. For extra credit, you can plot the monthly planetary average temperature going back as far as you can and see the clear warming trend.


Australia was abnormally cold this past winter.
Here are a few facts about this past winter:


Best snow season in 8 years now at 2metres

Canberra endures coldest September night since records began back in 1939(73Yrs).

Some of the most significant overnight minimum temperatures recorded to 9am EST on Sunday were:Canberra (-5°C(23F),
Tamworth (-4°C(24.8F) its coldest September night for over 55 years and Mudgee (-4.4°C(24F)
the coldest September night here for over 50 years.

Further west, Bourke (-0.2C(32.3F) a raw 9C(48.2F) below average and its Coldest September night for 104 years,
while the normally balmy north eastern region also shuddering under these noticeable crispy conditions,
Grafton Ap (0.1C(31.8F) a chilly 10C(50F) below average and the coldest September night here for over 46 years.

Across the ranges even colder conditions were experienced: Cooma Airport ( -9C(15.8F), Thredbo Top Station
(-8.6C(16.5F) and Glen Innes Airport (-8C(17.6F),its coldest September night for over 15years.

Some of the most significant overnight minimum temperatures recorded to 9am EST on Saturday were:Camden (-1.8°C)
its coldest September night for over 41 years, Richmond (-1.4°C) the coldest September night for over 83 years

Sydney observational hill recording an overnight minimum of 5.5°C, the coldest September night here for 17 years.

Badgerys creek(Western Sydney) (-0.2°C) the coldest September spell here for 18 years.


In fact, Australia has just emerged from its coldest overnight minimum temperatures on average across the country in 30 years.

What is perhaps just as significant is that this year also saw the third coldest over overnight minimums on record with
Australia recording an average minimum of-0.91˚C(1.7F below average).
Tasmania was the only state to have warmer than average minimum temperatures this year,
with a minimum average of +0.37˚C(0.66F above average).
One region to realy feel the cold was the Northern Territory, which shivered through its coldest minimum temperature
average on record, while South Australia rugged up under its seventh coolest winter.
Elsewhere, Western Australia saw its lowest minimum temperatures since 1976 averaging -0.75˚C(1.35F below average),
while New South Wales averaged a minima of -0.51˚C(0.91F below average) through winter.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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