Arctic sea ice volume now one-fifth its 1979 level

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:52 AM GMT on February 19, 2013

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The stunning loss of Arctic sea ice extent in recent years is undeniable--satellite measurements have conclusively shown that half of the Arctic sea ice went missing in September 2012, compared to the average September during 1979 - 2000. But the extent of ice cover is not the best measure of how the fire raging in Earth's attic is affecting sea ice--the total volume of the ice is more important. But up until 2010, we didn't have the measurements needed to say how the total volume of ice in the Arctic might be changing. Scientists relied on the University of Washington PIOMAS model, which suggested that the loss of Arctic sea ice volume during September might be approaching 75% - 80%. The model results were widely criticized by climate change skeptics as being unrealistic. However, in April 2010, a new satellite called Cryostat-2 was launched, which can measure ice volume by beaming pulses of microwave energy off of the ice. With two years of data to Cryosat-2 data to analyze, the results of the PIOMAS model have now been confirmed by a study published on-line in February 2013 in Geophysical Research Letters. In a University of Washington news release, co-author Axel Schweiger said, "people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid." The U.K.'s Natural Environmental Research Council reported that the team of scientists found that from 2003 to 2012, the volume of Arctic sea ice declined 36% in the autumn and 9% in the winter. The measure of sea ice volume is a good indicator of how the Arctic's most stable, "multi-year" ice is fairing. As the multi-year ice declines, sea ice extent, the total area covered by sea ice, in an "Arctic death spiral". The new study shows that thick, multi-year ice has disappeared in areas north of Greenland, around the Canadian Archipelago, and to the northeast of Svalbard, Norway.


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice volume in thousands of cubic kilometers during the September minimum in 1979 compared to 2012, as estimated by the University of Washington PIOMAS model. Arctic seas ice volume has declined by more than a factor of five. Image credit; Andy Lee Robinson.


Figure 2. The Polar-5 aircraft, carrying the EM instrument that was used to validate Cryosat-2 sea ice thickness measurements, flying over the validation site. Image credit: R. Willatt.

Why care about Arctic sea ice loss?
If you remove an area of sea ice 43% the size of the contiguous U.S. from the ocean, like occurred in September 2012, it is guaranteed to have a significant impact on weather and climate. The extra heat and moisture added to the atmosphere as a result of all that open water over the pole may already be altering jet stream patterns in fall and winter, bringing an increase in extreme weather events. The record sea ice loss in 2012 also contributed to an unprecedented melting event in Greenland. Continued sea ice loss will further increase melting from Greenland, contributing to sea level rise and storm surge damages. Sea ice loss will also continue to crank up the thermostat over Arctic permafrost regions. This will potentially release a significant fraction of the vast amounts of carbon currently locked in the permafrost, further accelerating global warming.

Related Posts
Earth's attic is on fire: Arctic sea ice bottoms out at a new record low (September 2012)
Half of the polar ice cap is missing: Arctic sea ice hits a new record low. September 6, 2012 blog post
Wunderground's Sea Ice page
Arctic Death Spiral Bombshell: CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed by Joe Romm at climateprogress.org.

Jeff Masters and Angela Fritz

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Quoting Neapolitan:
What, you don't think it's possible for a popular internet forum to be frequented by multiple people who share both similar scientific points of view and somewhat similar writing styles?
Nea......You are absolutely correct... I was not naming or pinpointing anyone in particular.. Just a woman's thinking that you wouldn't understand, Dammit Jim
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37101
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Maybe yes, maybe no... I have only one handle, which I think is an appropriate amount of handles... If I can't take care of my one handle I sure can't take care od two.


I only have one as well. :P
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Meanwhile..............
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37101
Quoting PlazaRed:

Certain bloggers have over the years indicated that some bloggers have more than one handle, so they can argue or agree with themselves.
This although possible would not be to difficult to determine as the ISP numbers and other info would show things up to anybody with access to them.
I remember when I first came on here, within an hour I had been accused of being somebody else and Grother had told me which part of Europe I was in, even though I had not said or indicated anything which could be in my opinion used to determine my position.
Shortly afterwards I also got questions about features of my town as if I was being interrogated.
Maybe somebody really thought I was somebody else. Then again I might be!
Maybe yes, maybe no... I have only one handle, which I think is an appropriate amount of handles... If I can't take care of my one handle I sure can't take care of two.
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824
Quoting washingtonian115:
Neither.It went back and forth from warm nuetral to it looking like a la nina was going to develop.But niether
have.


So what does that mean for next year??
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Quoting Birthmark:

As well it should be, imo. However, one demonstrates poor logic when they assert that something happened once or twice before that that makes somehow negates the importance of that same thing happening on a near yearly basis.
And once again, how many very low-key, wampy storms have elevated the counts in recent years?

I'm not talking 1995 or 2005. We only had two barely-major hurricanes this past year and lots of short-lived dinkers. Yet 2012 is tied with 1995 for number of named storms.
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Quoting WunderGirl12:


Interesting. So La Nina nor El Nino formed this year???
Neither.It went back and forth from warm nuetral to it looking like a la nina was going to develop.But niether have.
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Quoting Neapolitan:So, I'll say--again--it's not just the change that's alarming, but the rate of that change, and the fact that civilization wasn't around to go through any of the previous rapid warming/cooling events, and the fact that if civilization had been around, it would have been severely--perhaps fatally-disrupted.

Yep. The details of how the climate will change is what's important. If the temp was just going to go up uniformly and slowly at every point of the Earth's surface, then the warming might not be devastating. (It might, too.)

However, the warming will play out in a complicated fashion across the Earth's surface.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting PlazaRed:

Certain bloggers have over the years indicated that some bloggers have more than one handle, so they can argue or agree with themselves.
This although possible would not be to difficult to determine as the ISP numbers and other info would show things up to anybody with access to them.
I remember when I first came on here, within an hour I had been accused of being somebody else and Grother had told me which part of Europe I was in, even though I had not said or indicated anything which could be in my opinion used to determine my position.
Shortly afterwards I also got questions about features of my town as if I was being interrogated.
Maybe somebody really thought I was somebody else. Then again I might be!


Plaza, I know the feeling...
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Yes.A warm nuetral.


Interesting. So La Nina nor El Nino formed this year???
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Quoting Neapolitan:
What, you don't think it's possible for a popular internet forum to be frequented by multiple people who share both similar scientific points of view and somewhat similar writing styles?

Certain bloggers have over the years indicated that some bloggers have more than one handle, so they can argue or agree with themselves.
This although possible would not be to difficult to determine as the ISP numbers and other info would show things up to anybody with access to them.
I remember when I first came on here, within an hour I had been accused of being somebody else and Grother had told me which part of Europe I was in, even though I had not said or indicated anything which could be in my opinion used to determine my position.
Shortly afterwards I also got questions about features of my town as if I was being interrogated.
Maybe somebody really thought I was somebody else. Then again I might be!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WunderGirl12:


this year was nuetral, right??
Yes.A warm nuetral.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
What, you don't think it's possible for a popular internet forum to be frequented by multiple people who share both similar scientific points of view and somewhat similar writing styles?
Computers make efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them (Mr. Spock)
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824
Quoting AGWcreationists:
And how many of those storms are due to vastly improved remote sensing capabilities that catch short-lived storms that may have been missed in the past? That has long been a point of debate on this blog.

As well it should be, imo. However, one demonstrates poor logic when they assert that something happened once or twice before that that makes somehow negates the importance of that same thing happening on a near yearly basis.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting washingtonian115:
Yes that is correct.But El nino never developed and so predictions were thrown off.


this year was nuetral, right??
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Quoting VR46L:


Yeah ,it was if I remember Correctly supposed to be a below average year . LOL
Yes that is correct.But El nino never developed and so predictions were thrown off.
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I Believe ~ 1964
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another basin compare 12/13


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328. VR46L
Quoting washingtonian115:
The good news is things can change as we are still a ways a way from hurricane season.You see what happened last year?.According to most pro mets we were never suppose to see 19 named storms.So nothing is eteched in stone.However if the pattern persist you will have to start getting worried.


Yeah ,it was if I remember Correctly supposed to be a below average year . LOL
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6842
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Xyrus....I read your post...It makes a lot of sense to me.. But, You sure sound like someone else I know that blogs here, Is that possible?
What, you don't think it's possible for a popular internet forum to be frequented by multiple people who share both similar scientific points of view and somewhat similar writing styles?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AGWcreationists:
First of all, your argument about perceptions of steady state climate cuts both ways. Over thousands of years, the climate record shows extraordinary variability. Yet somehow what we are experiencing now is some kind of normal? Only within our short lifespans. And the real normal over the last couple of million years leans towards an Ice Age climate. Compare parts of Manhattan being submerged by rising oceans to the entire island getting scraped clear by encroaching glaciers.

And regarding the impact of warming at the end of the Younger Dryas on human populations, one only needs to look at the relative well-being of humanity in the Medieval Warm Period versus the death and misery of the Little Ice Age.

I imagine the human inhabitants at the end of the Younger Dryas gave thanks to their gods for generations for warming their world.

Oh, and BTW, I am an AGW skeptic. It truly is amazing that on this site, with all the new moderators and efforts to enforce civility, that such a slur (comparing skeptics to slimeball Holocaust deniers) is routinely allowed.
Now, now, no need to sidetrack the cproceedings by Godwin-ning the discussion; after all the term "denial" was in use long before Der Fuhrer was born.

Now, I'm of the opinion that there are no true scientific climate change skeptics. Certainly there are those who fancy themselves as such, but when the veneer is scraped away, there's always nothing more than garden-variety denialism. For instance, reliance on tired tropes such as, "The climate has changed before, so what's the big deal?" and "Global warming is better than global cooling."

Sound familiar?

So, I'll say--again--it's not just the change that's alarming, but the rate of that change, and the fact that civilization wasn't around to go through any of the previous rapid warming/cooling events, and the fact that if civilization had been around, it would have been severely--perhaps fatally-disrupted.

There's no denying that, either...
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Quoting VR46L:


OMG !!!

I hope you are wrong Wash !!

That would be Just terrible
The good news is things can change as we are still a ways a way from hurricane season.You see what happened last year?.According to most pro mets we were never suppose to see 19 named storms.So nothing is eteched in stone.However if the pattern persist you will have to start getting worried.
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Quoting AGWcreationists:
First of all, your argument about perceptions of steady state climate cuts both ways. Over thousands of years, the climate record shows extraordinary variability. Yet somehow what we are experiencing now is some kind of normal? Only within our short lifespans. And the real normal over the last couple of million years leans towards an Ice Age climate. Compare parts of Manhattan being submerged by rising oceans to the entire island getting scraped clear by encroaching glaciers.

And regarding the impact of warming at the end of the Younger Dryas on human populations, one only needs to look at the relative well-being of humanity in the Medieval Warm Period versus the death and misery of the Little Ice Age.

I imagine the human inhabitants at the end of the Younger Dryas gave thanks to their gods for generations for warming their world.

Oh, and BTW, I am an AGW skeptic. It truly is amazing that on this site, with all the new moderators and efforts to enforce civility, that such a slur (comparing skeptics to slimeball Holocaust deniers) is routinely allowed.

Little ice age time.
Maybe 300 million people, Now we have more than 20 times that number.
If glaciers were going to scrape over islands, then there would be plenty of warning as they dont form in a few years to that extent.
Global warming along with sea rise will start to have serious effects in the next few years, probably less than 20 years.Most of the people on here will live to see it!
Meanwhile populations increase and especially in coastal areas the sea level rise and storm surges will start to take their tolls. Consider Bangladesh and even Holland.
Its not a matter of arguing about what might have happened if we had an ice age coming, there isnt one on any horizon whilst with every drop of rain that falls,(A flower grows, Pedley No!)on Arctic ice a little more melts.
Its time to plan for water borne problems not speculate on whats not going to happen.
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Quoting PedleyCA:
Rut-Roh
Scooby Doo
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824
Rut-Roh
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321. VR46L
Quoting washingtonian115:
i hope it's not 19.Can we have somehing different like 15?.16 maybe?.A EVEN number for once in what would be like a couple of years?.
I just don't want to see another storm running up the coast like Irene and Sandy did in 012,and 011 respectivly.But you can't avoid the enevitable.

Levi thanks for bringing up those interesting points there.I see a L.A M.S and A.L might be big targets this year.Very 05ish and I've been saying this for a while now...


OMG !!!

I hope you are wrong Wash !!

That would be Just terrible
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6842
12/13 compare

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Xyrus....I read your post...It makes a lot of sense to me.. But, You sure sound like someone else I know that blogs here, Is that possible?
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
maybe it will be 21 this season


Im expecting for a surprising number this year as compared to the previous three...
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i hope it's not 19.Can we have somehing different like 15?.16 maybe?.A EVEN number for once in what would be like a couple of years?.
I just don't want to see another storm running up the coast like Irene and Sandy did in 012,and 011 respectivly.But you can't avoid the enevitable.

Levi thanks for bringing up those interesting points there.I see a L.A M.S and A.L might be big targets this year.Very 05ish and I've been saying this for a while now...
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Quoting Doppler22:
The radar was very tricky today... When it showed me in rain, it was snowing but when it showed me in snow, it was raining -_-


LOL! poor you Doppler! :D
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I love this blog sometimes. You can learn so much from people.
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Quoting bullitt68:
Wait, you mean the climate is changing. We've never had climate change in the past. Yes, that's sarcasm! I remember being scared when I was a kid in the mid 1970's by all the scientists saying we were heading into another ice-age.

Man is a funny species. We give way too much weight to both our intelligence and our stupidity.


Your information is not correct. The media took what a few fringe scientists said and sensationalized it. Almost all research papers on the subject during that time period projected WARMING. You can verify this quite easily by looking through the Nature archives or the archives of other well established peer-reviewed science journals.

And yes, climate does change. Usually this process takes thousands of years, not a century or two. Everytime there has been rapid climate change in the past an extinction event ocurred as existing life forms couldn't adapt to the changes quickly enough.

Now add to this that our entire food supply is built around the climate norms of the 20th century. When the climate changes, what do you think will happen?

Now consider ocean acidification and sea level rise on top of this. Are you getting the picture yet?

Even IF humans were not inducing climate change, the simple fact that the climate IS changing should be a considerable concern to the 7 billion people on the planet. Historically speaking, even region shifts in weather patterns have decimated civilizations due to persistent droughts, floods, etc. .
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The radar was very tricky today... When it showed me in rain, it was snowing but when it showed me in snow, it was raining -_-
Member Since: February 13, 2012 Posts: 11 Comments: 3668
Quoting AGWcreationists:
1933 had 20 named storms without satellites to catch short-lived tropical storms hitting remote coastlines outside the U.S. such as Bret, Gert and Jose. 1887 had 19 named storms. The only weak tropical storm listed that year hit the US coast

Your point is?



The average is 10.1 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.5 majors. 2005 holds the record with 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes and 7 majors. Recent years have had far above normal activity.

But then, I don't have stats for the 15th century, so how can I say that the recent high numbers haven't happened in the past? It could just be coincidence that they're occuring at a time when the planet is warmer than at any time in the past several thousand years, couldn't it?


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Quoting Birthmark:

Scroll through here and see if you can figure out the point.

It gets real interesting near the bottom.
And how many of those storms are due to vastly improved remote sensing capabilities that catch short-lived storms that may have been missed in the past? That has long been a point of debate on this blog.

BTW, I am quite well-versed on the history of hurricanes in this country.

But go ahead, pretend I don't have point by inferring I am clueless about what you have raised.
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Quoting yonzabam:


Better not say it might have something to do with global warming. You'll get slapped down with 'hurricanes have only been recorded since (whenever)'. How do you know that 19 storms a season wasn't the norm in the 15th century?'


Quoting AGWcreationists:
1933 had 20 named storms without satellites to catch short-lived tropical storms hitting remote coastlines outside the U.S. such as Bret, Gert and Jose. 1887 had 19 named storms. The only weak tropical storm listed that year hit the US coast

Your point is?




LOL! I believe Yonzabam's point was that any suggestion that active tropical seasons are tied to climate change would be met with a "but year X was this active and we didn't have climate change back then so nyah"...

It's like Yonzabam can see into the future...
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
ECMWF shows CAPE over AL/GA day 5-6....strange...
more than NAM too.

GFS shows 0 cape.
trough is way north
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Quoting Neapolitan:
So you do admit that rapid climate change is possible. I'm glad to see it; some denialists claim that the earth is steady and stable, and not capable of such cataclysmic events, but you obviously know better...

Now, what do you think would have happened if civilization had spring up during the YD, then had to face the rapid end of it? Here's a hint: entire ecosystems would have been thrown out of whack. Coastal cities would have been submerged in a matter of years.
First of all, your argument about perceptions of steady state climate cuts both ways. Over thousands of years, the climate record shows extraordinary variability. Yet somehow what we are experiencing now is some kind of normal? Only within our short lifespans. And the real normal over the last couple of million years leans towards an Ice Age climate. Compare parts of Manhattan being submerged by rising oceans to the entire island getting scraped clear by encroaching glaciers.

And regarding the impact of warming at the end of the Younger Dryas on human populations, one only needs to look at the relative well-being of humanity in the Medieval Warm Period versus the death and misery of the Little Ice Age.

I imagine the human inhabitants at the end of the Younger Dryas gave thanks to their gods for generations for warming their world.

Oh, and BTW, I am an AGW skeptic. It truly is amazing that on this site, with all the new moderators and efforts to enforce civility, that such a slur (comparing skeptics to slimeball Holocaust deniers) is routinely allowed.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AGWcreationists:
1933 had 20 named storms without satellites to catch short-lived tropical storms hitting remote coastlines outside the U.S. such as Bret, Gert and Jose. 1887 had 19 named storms. The only weak tropical storm listed that year hit the US coast

Your point is?


Scroll through here and see if you can figure out the point.

It gets real interesting near the bottom.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Thats funny you say that... My college advisor about 3 years ago who is a climatologists swore that we are fixing to enter into a "Little Ice Age". She was defensive in her reasoning which to me didnt make much sense, but regardless of what our class presented she was always quick with responses to why we were wronge.

Are you certain that she wasn't trying to stimulate you to think and to research the issue to gather data that would prove her wrong? Seems like a great tactic to accomplish that, to me.
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Cosmic Dancer

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Quoting PedleyCA:
Nice and warm there Keep....
was mild with a bit of rain now cooling off again its the winter weather roller coaster ride
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I was dancing when I was twelve
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824
Here are the final damage numbers from MEMA for the Hattiesburg EF-4 tornado:

Lamar: 134 homes destroyed, 169 homes major damage and 414 homes minor damage. Nine injuries.

Forrest: 192 homes destroyed, 338 homes major damage and 603 homes minor damage. 63 injuries.

No total cost number that I've seen yet.

Edit: Also, it is important to note that these numbers are just for homes.
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Quoting AGWcreationists:
1933 had 20 named storms without satellites to catch short-lived tropical storms hitting remote coastlines outside the U.S. such as Bret, Gert and Jose. 1887 had 19 named storms. The only weak tropical storm listed that year hit the US coast

Your point is?

My point...I'm freekin' old, but that was way before my time
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824
Quoting yonzabam:


Better not say it might have something to do with global warming. You'll get slapped down with 'hurricanes have only been recorded since (whenever)'. How do you know that 19 storms a season wasn't the norm in the 15th century?'
1933 had 20 named storms without satellites to catch short-lived tropical storms hitting remote coastlines outside the U.S. such as Bret, Gert and Jose. 1887 had 19 named storms. The only weak tropical storm listed that year hit the US coast

Your point is?

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Nice and warm there Keep....
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Quoting Neapolitan:
No one has said that it's "proof" of anything; that's the word you're using. But you should know that proofs are for mathematics. OTOH, the rapid disappearance of the longstanding North Polar ice cap is evidence that the planet is rapidly warming, with the poles leading the way. There is lots of other evidence that--chemical, physical, logical--that points a humans as the cause.So you do admit that rapid climate change is possible. I'm glad to see it; some denialists claim that the earth is steady and stable, and not capable of such cataclysmic events, but you obviously know better. Good.

Now, what do you think would have happened if civilization had spring up during the YD, then had to face the rapid end of it? Here's a hint: entire ecosystems would have been thrown out of whack. Coastal cities would have been submerged in a matter of years. Agricultural institutions would have taken an immense beating. There'd have been massive forced migrations, food shortages, armed conflicts, crippling disease breakouts, and basically worldwide turmoil.

Luckily, though, the few tens of thousands of humans scattered around the planet at the time were nomadic cave and tent dwellers, so packing up and moving to less hostile climes wouldn't have been much a problem at all.

When it happens this time--as it most assuredly will--we won't be so lucky...
Nea...Great post, but I get so tired after I read it just knowing how much time and energy you spend just to make one post, BUT, It is eloquently done...
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5824

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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.