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

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Beautiful orographic formations over the mountains on a windy evening.
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Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:



And I won't base my beliefs of global warming on 33 years (or 130 years) of data out of a supposed 5billion years.
exactly. they dont have the right to criticize us believing the Bible if they believe something like that.
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883. 7544
90l 1 mb drop now at 1009
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There I said my peace with above with a topic that should not be talked about in this blog. Back to the tropics please.
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This is why I dislike global warming discussions.... can't use anything to base your beliefs other than the flawed science (small data sets).

I'll be back when there's real weather. Take care everyone

These storms in IL producing penny size hail and winds to 50mph.

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The only downfall of the constitution is the heavy reliance on in God we trust. It causes a huge discrepancy with future reality that GOD is nothing more than a place to reside outside of reality derived from the human mind. Religion is a slow dying ideology. Thousands of years from now it will cease to exist in the popular front, especially in this country.
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Facts about the Earth's current warming phase.

1) As the troposphere has warmed, the stratosphere has cooled.

2) Most of the warming has been due to an incresse in night time minima, rather than an increase in daytime maxima.

Interesting facts which, on the face of it, appear to rule out increased solar activity as the cause.

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Quoting K8eCane:


People always get offended when God is mentioned. Really really sad but its all in the Bible.



This is true.
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Quoting Xyrus2000:


She didn't say that. And if you're looking for "100%" sure, I suggest you look into philosophy. Science always has error bars.

That cannot be stated often or loudly enough. And it's strange that it needs to be since that is science's fundamental strength.
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Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:



And I won't base my beliefs of global warming on 33 years (or 130 years) of data out of a supposed 5billion years.


Much of the data is older than 33 years old as you say. Have you ever heard of tree rings, archaeology, shoot many other factors that lead to the data that shows that global warming is for real. Please don't use the same tired argument without doing just a little but of research. Please a blog like this deserves more.
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Quoting yoboi:


it is on topic he is quoting from a book that is over 2,000 yrs old and it does talk about the earth, other people are using 30 yrs worth of studies to predict the future....i think both sides should be able to use read what they want....
Because, clearly, the men who wrote said book were scientists,and the text itself was based entirely upon proven, factual science, yes?
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Oh the tongue of warm water. Can't imagine what the blog would be like if we had a year like that again.
Should be nicknamed the Great El-Nino of 1997.
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Quoting StormHype:


Did you really misread the author's context that poorly? The author implied the US and Canada likely saw the same conditions that were experienced in Europe. It was 500 AD (duh). No civil records were being kept in the US and Canada at that time, only parts of Europe. Yet, the author concludes they probably saw the same conditions in the US and Canada as they saw in Europe ... where they have records of this time period.

Okay, we're up to Canada, the US, and Europe. We are still four continents and a few oceans short of anything global.
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Reed that was the best post of the day of what you belive.Seems now days the only people who have rights in this country are the one's who are anti-christian, or anti conservative.People constantly quote the constitution about leaving religion out of any disscussion.Well these folks that say this, seem not to read the whole purpose of what the founding fathers believed.They believed in the separation of church and state.They also said in closing if God was taken out of the country the country would cease to exist.Somebody asked about what happened to Ike and a lot of the old bloggers? Todays arguing and posts is what ran most of them off.Used to be a great tropical blog sad.One poster that seems to thrive on GW and stirring up arguments has caused most of the trouble, and has no objectivity what so ever.Good Day and proud to say God Bless you, and god bless America.


Perhaps you could point out to me what portion of your political soap box has to do with weather???? Would you like some links to a polytricks blog or religion blog????

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871. 7544
90l is still 1010mb low not moving fast and if you look at it now its tring to gain some convection around the center its goin to make another try today will it make it? im not counting this one out yet could give us surprise soon stay tuned .
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Quoting jeffs713:

We're on the same side, ya know.

The intent of my very long-winded post was to point out some logical fallacies, and not prove or disprove any scientific facts... but rather make people actually think.

That was likewise my intent. I do not claim to know everything, so it is entirely possible that something I think I know --as I posted-- is incorrect or is not comprehensive.

Sorry if I come off confrontational. I lack grace...but my many cats still love me.
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Quoting hydrus:
Very weak in my book. When I think of El-Nino I think of this..
Oh the tongue of warm water. Can't imagine what the blog would be like if we had a year like that again.
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Quoting 954FtLCane:
I do not base my beliefs on global warming on a book written many many centuries ago. Sorry I just don't believe in human's predictability of future events. Christian conservatism scares me, scares many. Christian conservatism tells many people how their lives should be ran. It's funny how many Reps love to tell people to keep gov't out of our lives yet love keeping in when it's something that goes with their beliefs.



And I won't base my beliefs of global warming on 33 years (or 130 years) of data out of a supposed 5billion years.
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867. yoboi
Quoting AegirsGal:
Neither your chosen religion nor its texts' contents have any bearing on the topic.


it is on topic he is quoting from a book that is over 2,000 yrs old and it does talk about the earth, other people are using 30 yrs worth of studies to predict the future....i think both sides should be able to use read what they want....
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2374
Quoting Xyrus2000:


Your post came across as a typical anti-science post. Your last sentence in this post also borders on the conspiracy theory side. There is nothing inherently wrong with socialism. In fact, we have quite a bit of socialism in this country. It's just that compared to other developed socialist democracies in the world, we do it really badly. :)



Based on this reply I'm not so sure you even know what science means.
Quoting Skyepony:
I did call this amount of melt back in late winter...

Here's a like minded forecaster..



hahahaha :)
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I do not base my beliefs on global warming on a book written many many centuries ago. Sorry I just don't believe in human's predictability of future events. Christian conservatism scares me, scares many. Christian conservatism tells many people how their lives should be ran. It's funny how many Reps love to tell people to keep gov't out of our lives yet love keeping in when it's something that goes with their beliefs.
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Quoting blsealevel:
Surface and Upper Winds seem to be alittle elongated at this time
come on cold front:)




90L is just so confused. It doesn't know where it is going, where it is, which way is up, or how many licks it takes to get the center of a tootsie roll pop.
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Quoting zschmiez:
Quick question:

If Sea Ice is "blown" around by the Alaskan storm, is it no longer sea ice? Or is it not counted as part of the mass?

I realize that the potential for melt increases, but do the satellites account for unattached ice? The figures we see are usually rounded so much no one can tell (i.e. 1,000,000 sqkm)

One place you can go for accurate numbers is here: Link
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Quoting jeffs713:
I can't speak for FL, but in TX, the chances of rain aren't that big, as the pre-frontal trough is moving well ahead of the actual front, so the best moisture and the best forcing are separated by a good amount. Many early fronts like this one tend to be spread out in a similar manner.
Yeah I was thinking FL, and you are right, the warm air advection-heavy rain scenario plays out more often in the winter down here.
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What did Reedzone say that was so bad?
I just saw that he said he believes in AGW and gave a reason why (which included his christianity)

How is that "proselytizing" or "forcing"?
Thats just what he believes and why, it has no effect on you.

I really didn't need to waste my break from school stuff to see an argument about whether someone can say they believe in AGW because of God.
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Reed that was the best post of the day of what you belive.Seems now days the only people who have rights in this country are the one's who are anti-christian, or anti conservative.People constantly quote the constitution about leaving religion out of any disscussion.Well these folks that say this, seem not to read the whole purpose of what the founding fathers believed.They believed in the separation of church and state.They also said in closing if God was taken out of the country the country would cease to exist.Somebody asked about what happened to Ike and a lot of the old bloggers? Todays arguing and posts is what ran most of them off.Used to be a great tropical blog sad.One poster that seems to thrive on GW and stirring up arguments has caused most of the trouble, and has no objectivity what so ever.Good Day and proud to say God Bless you, and god bless

America.


I wanted to quote you so atleast your comment would be here for a little while once the blog GW master and the minions start minusing you. Cheers REED
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Quoting StormHype:


All it takes is one of the earth orbit-crossing asteroids to crash to earth and that will take a notch out of GW and it's related concerns. (We only know the tracks of 10% of them.) Don't say it won't happen. The earth would look as 'crater pocked' as the moon if it wasn't for its atmosphere, water, and vegetation.

Not saying a comet or asteroid is a desired solution to GW. Just pointing out that other things can destroy the status quo of life on the surface of the earth much quicker.... and have.


So would an erupting supervolcano, however in both circumstances you're talking about very low probability events that, if they were to happen, would cure all of humanity's ills (because there wouldn't be any humans left).
Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1532
Surface and Upper Winds seem to be alittle elongated at this time
come on cold front:)



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it has to do with GLOBAL COOLING. COOYON
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Quoting K8eCane:


People always get offended when God is mentioned. Really really sad but its all in the Bible.
true
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Quoting guygee:
When a front hangs up there is always a chance that warm air advection can bring some heavy rains. It will depend on how much moisture pools to the south of the front. Bad news for many if it happens.
I can't speak for FL, but in TX, the chances of rain aren't that big, as the pre-frontal trough is moving well ahead of the actual front, so the best moisture and the best forcing are separated by a good amount. Many early fronts like this one tend to be spread out in a similar manner.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
True the 1969 and 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Seasons were both active and didn't ironically end until November 30 and both were weak El-Nino's years.
Very weak in my book. When I think of El-Nino I think of this..The major impacts on human lives and the economy of the United States resulting from weather events attributed to El Niño 1997-98. Southern states and California were plagued by storms, whereas the northern half of the nation experienced much above normal cold season temperatures and below normal precipitation and snowfall. Losses included 189 lives, many due to tornadoes, and the major economic losses were property and crop damages from storms, loss of business by the recreation industry and by snow removal equipment/supplies manufacturers and sales firms, and government relief costs. Benefits included an estimated saving of 850 lives because of the lack of bad winter weather. Areas of major economic benefits (primarily in the nation's northern sections) included major reductions in expenditures (and costs) for natural gas and heating oil, record seasonal sales of retail products and homes, lack of spring flood damages, record construction levels, and savings in highway-based and airline transportation. Further, the nation experienced no losses from major Atlantic hurricanes. The net economic effect was surprisingly positive and less government relief was needed than in prior winters without El Niño influences. The estimated direct losses nationally were about $4 billion and the benefits were approximately $19 billion. The highly accurate long-range predictions issued by the Climate Prediction Center in the summer of 1997 for the winter conditions led to some major benefits. For example, the predictions led California to conduct major mitigation efforts and the results suggest these led to a major reduction in losses. Several utilities in the northern United States used the winter forecasts to alter their strategy for purchasing natural gas, leading to major savings to their customers.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21507
Quoting Birthmark:

Yeah, you probably want to read all the way to the end where it says, "In conclusion, throughout many parts of the United States and some of Canada, it would appear that the Dark Ages Cold Period was a time of both relative coolness and wetness, much like the Little Ice Age was in this part of the world. "

Part of the world /= global.


Did you really misread the author's context that poorly? The author implied the US and Canada likely saw the same conditions that were experienced in Europe. It was 500 AD (duh). No civil records were being kept in the US and Canada at that time, only parts of Europe. Yet, the author concludes they probably saw the same conditions in the US and Canada as they saw in Europe ... where they have records of this time period.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1208
Quoting VINNY04:
i agree. everyone should leave Reed alone. he has the right to say that on this blog just as much as the rest of yall have your right to post what you have been posting.


People always get offended when God is mentioned. Really really sad but its all in the Bible.
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Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.

Naw, enlightenment lagged behind the end of the Dark Ages. That proves enlightenment does not cause literacy.
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850. yoboi
Quoting Tazmanian:




GW and politics be leve it or not do play a roll here. On tv I here them at the whit house talking about GW. Some times



does the white house use solar panels today???
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2374
Quoting StormHype:


Please point me to the science claiming that man-made acidification will kill many types of sea life in 20 to 30 years. I have to see that one myself. 3/4 of the earth is deep ocean, enriched with basic salts and minerals that you say will lose the ability to buffer the pH of ocean water solely due to man's emission's of sulfur dioxide and CO2. That seems like BS.


This has been published in scientific journals as well as any number of articles in the past several months and years.

To be honest, I cannot find the articles I had in mind, because they don't show up in Google; It's not popular to read some Australian scientist telling you the ocean is warming and acidifying faster than predicted.

Here are some articles though.

Seattle Times

and

Acidification Killing Shellfish Now

Anyway, that's just the organism(s) they tested. There are thousands of species in the ocean, too many to test, which are going to be impacted by this.

To put in perspective, on the pH scale, 7.8 is twice as acidic as 8.1.


It's not just the shells, it's the larva. When they're talking about already having an 80% reduction in larva, it won't take very long to eliminate the species as acid increases.


Also, fresh water melting from glaciers has a lower pH than the ocean, so it actually serves to help "acidify" the ocean relative to it's current pH.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting K8eCane:


You Have As Much Right To Your Beliefs As Anyone. I Also Believe The Word Of God So Thanks For Posting
i agree. everyone should leave Reed alone. he has the right to say that on this blog just as much as the rest of yall have your right to post what you have been posting.
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Quoting stoormfury:
The wave that has just come off the african coast has moved southwest to a lower latitude. the ridge is expected to rebuild, and there is no trough insight to recurve soon to be 91L and the other wave to follow.


What's that got to do with global warming?
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Quoting stoormfury:
The wave that has just come off the african coast has moved southwest to a lower latitude. the ridge is expected to rebuild, and there is no trough insight to recurve soon to be 91L and the other wave to follow.
I said it is too soon to go out on a limb and say this wave will recurve because it all depends how quickly Leslie and Michael leave the picture the quicker the more faster the ridge is allowed to build in and close the weakness left behind by these 2 storms, the slower they move the more likely the weakness would still be there which would allow for the recurve.
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Quoting Grothar:
I thought the "Dark Ages" was caused by less sunlight and everything got dark for a long time. That is why people stopped reading and writing. When the "Enlightenment" came it got lighter and people could read again.

Well, you were there, so I guess I have to take your word for it.
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Quoting Abacosurf:
And you are 100 percent sure of that in 4 billion years???


She didn't say that. And if you're looking for "100%" sure, I suggest you look into philosophy. Science always has error bars.

Her point is that during the time modern humans have existed, the rate of warming we are seeing has never happened. Indeed, the rate of warming we are seeing is greater than any time at least back to the Miocene.

Regardless, our modern civilization depends on a stable climate, if for nothing else than for food production. We have already had a couple of glimpses into how things can go when bad things happen to major food production regions.

Th Earth will be fine no matter what. Humans on the other hand, despite our technological progress, are still very much dependent on a friendly climate to survive.

Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1532
if there is no recurvature then the conus could be in for some problems with soon to be 91L.
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Quoting VINNY04:
the world goes through cycles of heating and cooling down. if time lasts long enough then scientists 20 or 30 years from now will scream about global cooling.

Are they magic cycles with no cause? I ask because I'm under the impression that cycles need an explanation. IOW, what "cycle" is causing the current warming?
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Quoting reedzone:


I was just explaining my theory on the issue based on my beliefs as a Christian and what is to come.


You Have As Much Right To Your Beliefs As Anyone. I Also Believe The Word Of God So Thanks For Posting
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Quoting StormHype:


Wow .... "Obama's 2016" came early.


Huh?

Quoting reedzone:
Not to mention that I added (if you believe the word of God). Wasn't forcing anything on anyone. Some people are just so ignorant on here.. but that's ok.

I never said you were forcing anything. Rather just proselytizing.
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Quoting AegirsGal:
Neither your chosen religion nor its texts' contents have any bearing on the topic.


No but it is part of my idea on Global Warming.. which is on topic.. Wasn't forcing anything on anyone.
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Quoting Jedkins01:
I actually don't buy that the front will clear through until I see it. It might happen yes. However it's going to be close either way. I think a front stalling north of the area with continued showers and thunderstorms is closer to reality.
When a front hangs up there is always a chance that warm air advection can bring some heavy rains. It will depend on how much moisture pools to the south of the front. Bad news for many if it happens.
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The wave that has just come off the african coast has moved southwest to a lower latitude. the ridge is expected to rebuild, and there is no trough insight to recurve soon to be 91L and the other wave to follow.
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Quoting Birthmark:

There is indeed a direct link. The isotopic makeup of the atmospheric carbon shows that old carbon is increasing in the atmosphere. Old carbon that is found in oh, say fossil fuels.

Maybe you (or someone else) knows where all this old carbon is coming from if it's *not* from fossil fuels? If so, please share.

We're on the same side, ya know.

The intent of my very long-winded post was to point out some logical fallacies, and not prove or disprove any scientific facts... but rather make people actually think.
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Quoting reedzone:


Again, sharing my idea on the topic of the blog, which has some "faith base" to it. Just staying on topic.
Neither your chosen religion nor its texts' contents have any bearing on the topic.
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Quoting reedzone:
Not to mention that I added (if you believe the word of God). Wasn't forcing anything on anyone. Some people are just so ignorant on here.. but that's ok.


Unfortunately ignorance doesn't just stem from those who do not believe in God. In fact, it is with a degree of sadness that I have found some of my fellow Christians to be the most ignorant of all.
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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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