By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:51 PM GMT on February 18, 2007

It is interesting how quickly the discussion of climate change gets anchored around a particular topic. Sometimes it is, "what car should I buy?" Here we have moved to sea level rise, geo-engineering and island cities along the Atlantic Coast. In "Climate Change 2007" the observed sea level rise is divided up between its sources: thermal expansion of the ocean, melting of glaciers and ice caps, and melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The report considers the measured sea level rise between 1961 and 2003 and separates out the last 10 years, 1993-2003. Two facts that I note: 1) the largest part of sea level rise, so far, is from thermal expansion of the ocean. The ocean has absorbed a lot of heat, which can be measured to a depth of 3000 meters. Heating water causes it to expand. 2) The rate of the sea level rise is significantly larger in the last ten years of the record. This, again, is a set of correlated observations, consistent with the predictions of a warming climate--another "fingerprint."

In 2003 the Government Accounting Office produced a report on the vulnerability of coastal "Alaskan Villages" to flooding and erosion. There are already villages moving to higher ground, adapting to higher temperatures. This links to a summary from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that discusses the situation in Shismaref, Alaska. Alaska is at high northern latitudes; it is the part of the United States which sits at a place where both the observed and predicted temperature changes are large. (The AAAS link has died since original post. Text is here.)

The situation in Alaska, today, raises many questions. There is the reality of the expense of moving long established communities--a cost which is not recovered by tangible economic benefit. This raises questions of ethics and liability. There is fact that some see benefit from the melting of the ice in the Arctic--the Northwest Passage would be realized--a potential new region of oil resources is opened for exploration--energy security. There are the highly publicized troubles of the polar bears and warming of the permafrost which impacts both ecosystems and the stability of existing roads and pipelines.

We have, here, the reality of warming and its impacts. From the point of view of economics, some could be viewed as losers, some as winners. This is the current incremental reality, and it will lead to development of adaptation strategies, lead to exposure of resilience of communities. Is it possible that rather than waiting for catastrophe, we can develop viable and extensible approaches that balance the conflicting pieces of our reality? Ideas?

Figure 1. From NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Reseach This figure shows temperature variability at a number of interior stations in the Alaskan forest.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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99. desertdisaster
2:26 AM GMT on February 22, 2007
Thanks Cyclone,

pergelisol = Permafrost.

My first language is french.
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96. desertdisaster
2:45 PM GMT on February 21, 2007
Time for a new blog? Snow or Ice?

Hello Ricky

There are so many topics...

We know from the report that precipitation will increase in some areas and decrease in others…
Hopefully, More snow for now in northern latitudes! But then in a few decades or even sooner, rain will start to replace the snow during some winters, less snow will mean, less reflection of the heat, less reflection of the heat = more heat absorption, more heat absorption = late ice formation, late ice formation = late winter start (like 2007), late winter start = even more heat absorption, more heat absorption= more methane evaporation from pergelisol and CO2 from oceans, more methane evaporation from pergelisol and CO2 from oceans = more greenhouse gas…
Is there an end to this?
Where will the Greenhouse gas levels be in 500 years? Will the temperature follow those levels as predicted? If yes! Than what would the average be? What is the impact of it on life?

Of course! No one has an exact answer to all this! But it does not look good…
When the first winter without snow & ice happens in the northern latitudes (Where there usually is!) Then some people will realize, that this is no joke!

And the Question now is not if! It’s when!

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95. cieldumort
5:37 AM GMT on February 21, 2007
We're into that region's hurricane season. Cat 4's, while rare, are not exceptional there. At this hour Favio is weakening. Not exactly another Ioke. Has been a very pretty hurricane, tho.
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94. Fshhead
4:34 AM GMT on February 21, 2007
Hmmmm just noticed here that cyclone Favio is a cat 4 storm heading into Africa. Correct me if I am wrong but, is this not peculiar????
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88. Dr. Ricky Rood , Professor
12:26 AM GMT on February 21, 2007
The Arctic warms faster because of the distribution of land and ocean. Most of the Arctic is ocean, most of the ice area sea ice. The ocean and the atmosphere both can bring heat to the north pole. The sea ice is more volatile than than the ice sheets. In the Antarctic most of the ice is on land; the ocean does not go to the pole. The ice is very thick, more durable, anchors the Antarctic for a long time. Then there are perhaps more minor things such as the ozone hole.

Time for a new blog? Snow or Ice?
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87. pottery
11:31 PM GMT on February 20, 2007
Question.. Why is the Arctic warming more quickly than Antartica ? Or am I mistaken here ? Anyone ??
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86. desertdisaster
1:07 PM GMT on February 20, 2007
For those who missed it on CNN last week:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It may be cold comfort during a frigid February, but last month was by far the hottest January ever.

The broken record was fueled by a waning El Nino and a gradually warming world, according to U.S. scientists who reported the data Thursday.

Records on the planet's temperature have been kept since 1880.

Spurred on by unusually warm Siberia, Canada, northern Asia and Europe, the world's land areas were 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) warmer than a normal January, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

That didn't just nudge past the old record set in 2002, but broke that mark by 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit (0.56C), which meteorologists said is a lot, since such records often are broken by hundredths of a degree at a time.

"That's pretty unusual for a record to be broken by that much," said the data center's scientific services chief, David Easterling. "I was very surprised."

The scientists went beyond their normal double checking and took the unusual step of running computer climate models "just to make sure that what we're seeing was real," Easterling said.

It was.

And January 2007, he said, was a bigger jump than the world has seen in about 10 years.

The world's temperature record was driven by northern latitudes. Siberia was on average 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5.1C) warmer than normal. Eastern Europe had temperatures averaging 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.55C) above normal. Canada on average was more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.88C) warmer than normal.

Larger increases in temperature farther north, compared to mid-latitudes, is "sort of the global warming signal," Easterling said.

It is what climate scientists predict happens and will happen more frequently with global warming, according to an authoritative report by hundreds of climate scientists issued this month...

The confusing debate over climate change has given way to a new scientific consensus: The Earth is getting warmer. But for some, global warming is already changing their lives...

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70. LouisC
9:11 PM GMT on February 19, 2007
ZZR, I looked at the link you provided from The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The second paragraph states: "In many locations in recent decades, temperatures have risen while precipitation levels have remained largely the same. Satellite data have confirmed that average snow cover has decreased, especially in the spring and summer. Where snow cover is disappearing earlier in the spring, the large amounts of energy that would have melted the snow can now directly warm the soil."

The concluding paragraph said: "Preliminary analysis of the 24-year trend in snow extent derived from visible and passive microwave satellite data indicates a decrease of approximately 3 to 5 percent per decade during spring and summer. Precipitation in regions of seasonal snow cover appears to be constant or increase slightly over the time period, which suggests that diminishing snow cover is the result of increasing temperatures."

Then your post concludes: "I think I stand backed up by evidence when I say snowcover in not trending down like one would think from this global warming."

I don't see how your citation backs up that conclusion.

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69. Dr. Ricky Rood , Professor
2:26 PM GMT on February 19, 2007
Just a note ... Climate models and trend analyses do consider the role of volcanos. I know of no data which suggest that volcanos dominate atmospheric emissions. At this point we have the ability to monitor volcanos quite well. They're point sources. In "modern times" (1000's of years) very large volcanic eruptions primarily cool due to their release of aerosols. One of the marvels of today's world is that we can all monitor volcanic activity. Here from Smithsonian and USGS. Of course, this is the government, but the government I used to work for never had it together enough to organize any mass hoax. Off to actually work for the day.
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67. Dr. Ricky Rood , Professor
2:07 PM GMT on February 19, 2007
ZRR, Point taken on the difficulty of determining trends in snow cover. I think that the data in the intellicast post are from CPC. We'll have to come back to this. There are issues. Here are a couple of papers that I think should be accessible to all with a web browser ... (no subscription required). They are, with the 1993 paper by Robinson, entree into the issues of determining trends. Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover ... by Brown and from the Science Direct Portal Wang et al. on Snowcover from NOAA charts. As I said, I took a note to come back to this. Your points are well taken.
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66. Fshhead
8:00 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
Posted By: ZRR at 9:19 PM GMT on February 18, 2007.
Man has addapted to climate change for thousands of years and will do so again.

If the scientists are right(which I think they are) mankind has never "adapted" to the conditions they are talking about. It certainly will NOT be anything like we have now. Again if they are right is this what we want to pass on to future generations. I remember a quote I posted when I first started my blog, "Future generations will look back at us & wonder why we did nothing while all the signs & signals were happening all around us & all our scientists(or almost all) are telling us that its occcuring. Also seems to me that I remember reading that their would be increased precipitation & snow in certain parts of the globe & in turn nothing in other spots. We are seeing this trend across the globe right now, another sign. This brings me to anamolies & trends. Look at all the anomolies the past 10 years or so. Couple I will point out,hurricane off Brazil, Strong tropical storm going into where was it?? I think France or something like that. The horrific '05 Atlantic season, the really horrific super typhoons that have occured in the west Pacific the past 2 years etc...
These are trends my friends of weather that is unpredictable(Wilma case in point when she BOMBED in 12 hours). I have said it & Snowboy has said it many many times, if you have been on this wonderful planet a while you DEFINITLY feel the change in the climate!!!!!
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65. Skyepony
5:25 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
“Climate Change 2007” was a good read. The forcings graph & discussion interesting. Land use & arosols figured in cooling.
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63. ZRR
4:42 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
Ricky the Northern Hemisphere snow graph was from an article in 2003. It stated that northern Hemiphere winter snow cover in 2003 reached a record that was previously set in the late 70's. This is the quote below the graph on the web page.
October to February 2002/03 average snowcover for the Northern Hemisphere was at the highest level in the data set eclipsing the previous record set in the winter of 1976/77. From CPC:

To be balanced I will put another graph that showes NH snowcover for all months of the year, as the first one was Oct-Feb, this does capture more the very recent declines in summer ice and snow cover. However if you put a trend line on that it would be not be much of a drop. So it is interesting that including summer and spring makes a big difference. You can see a decline in the late 80's and 90's witch I think is part and parcel with the shift in the Artic Oscillaion.
From Rutgers University Snow Lab click on the graph for a link to there web site
NH snowcover.
I have read in several places that snowcover in the last 10 years has been on the increase. This map showes trends from 1990-2004 Red indicates a decrease and grey no change and blue an increase. You can see a decrease in the Rockies however this was probably due to warm pacific events during this time. My original post was to show thats those students protesting need not worry about there snow dissapearingsnow cover change
/>Here is another graph from another source on this one I fail to pick out any trend, and again click on the link if your not sure of my source info.
NH snowcover
The last graph is from: The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
Supporting Cryospheric Research Since 1976
CIRES, 449 UCB University of Colorado Boulder, CO 80309-0449
NSIDC privacy policy | Use/Copyright Info

I think I stand backed up by evidence when I say snowcover in not trending down like one would think from this global warming.

Also did anybody talk about the original graph in RickyRoods post in witch no one mentioned that the spike in temps on that graph was mostly from a PDO shift.
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61. HurricaneMyles
4:26 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
Well that's too bad because I'm going to sleep...I've got physics in the morning.
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59. HurricaneMyles
4:16 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
There's many things I can handle; You making crazy(or even intelligent) claims and then not even knowing how to back it up is just one thing that makes my head spin.
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57. HurricaneMyles
4:09 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
Dude, all I want is an avg temp for that city to show if 45 degrees is way above avg, or not that much off. That, and maybe the avg rain totals for winter would be enough to prove that its not normal to rain in winter. **sigh** You're so damn dense.
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55. HurricaneMyles
4:05 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
Thank you, Captain Obvious. But an average temp for the city to show how out of the ordinary this is would be the 1st step in showing any proof that this is not normal.
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52. HurricaneMyles
4:03 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
Ahh...thats a IR loop. It says nothing about average temp or if its normal to rain or not.
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50. HurricaneMyles
3:56 AM GMT on February 19, 2007
I dont think thats unussual for a coastal city in southern greenland though. Maybe you should do some research to back that up?

Also, it's not raining there right now.
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I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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