Monday, June 26, 2006


Happy Monday, everybody. And while we're on the topic of rainy days and Mondays ...

The massive ice sheets of Greenland are melting faster than even the experts had predicted.

The Los Angeles Times' Robert Lee Hotz explains:

"By all accounts, the glaciers of Greenland are melting twice as fast as they were five years ago, even as the ice sheets of Antarctica — the world's largest reservoir of fresh water — also are shrinking, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Kansas reported in February.

"[NASA glaciologist Jay] Zwally and other researchers have focused their attention on a delicate ribbon — the equilibrium line, which marks the fulcrum of frost and thaw in Greenland's seasonal balance.

"The zone runs around the rim of the ice cap like a drawstring. Summer melting, on average, offsets the annual accumulation of snow.

"Across the ice cap, however, the area of seasonal melting was broader last year than in 27 years of record-keeping, University of Colorado climate scientists reported. In early May, temperatures on the ice cap some days were almost 20 degrees above normal, hovering just below freezing.

"From cores of ancient Greenland ice extracted by the National Science Foundation, researchers have identified at least 20 sudden climate changes in the last 110,000 years, in which average temperatures fluctuated as much as 15 degrees in a single decade.

"The increasingly erratic behavior of the Greenland ice has scientists wondering whether the climate, after thousands of years of relative stability, may again start oscillating.


"Zwally and his colleagues in March released an analysis of data from two European remote-sensing satellites showing the amount of water locked up in the ice sheet had risen slightly between 1992 and 2002.

"Then the ice sheet began to confound computer-generated predictions.

"By 2005, Greenland was beginning to lose more ice volume than anyone expected — an annual loss of up to 52 cubic miles a year — according to more recent satellite gravity measurements released by JPL. The amount of freshwater ice dumped into the Atlantic Ocean has almost tripled in a decade.

"'We are clearly seeing the effects of climate change starting to kick in,' Zwally said.

"Since [University of Colorado climatologist Konrad] Steffen started monitoring the weather at Swiss Camp in 1991, the average winter temperature has risen almost 10 degrees. Last year, the annual melt zone reached farther inland and up to higher elevations than ever before.

"There was even a period of melting in December.

"'We have never seen that,' Steffen said, combing the ice crystals from his beard. 'It is significantly warmer now, and it happened quite suddenly. This year, the temperatures were warmer than I have ever experienced.'"

The nothing-to-see-here-move-along crowd can grouse all they want that global warming is a hoax. Whatever. Some minds -- providing they have minds -- are too strong and powerful to be manipulated by the temptations of science and empirical evidence.

But I would respectfully submit that the global scientific community needs to stop daydreaming about human cloning and get to something really important: Start working on a way to give us all gills again.


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