A Nasa satellite has documented “startling” changes in Arctic sea ice cover between 2004 and 2005. The extent of “perennial” ice – which remains all year round – declined by 14%, losing an area the size of Pakistan or Turkey.

The Arctic is now warming about twice as fast as the global average. September 2005 saw the lowest recorded area of ice cover since 1978, when satellite records became available.

This latest study, from scientists from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, measured the extent of “perennial” ice cover.  From October 2004 to March 2006 they plotted a steady decline. “In previous years there is some variability, but it is much smaller and regional,” Dr Nghiem told the BBC. “However the change we see between 2004 and 2005 is enormous.”

Worrying indeed. Don’t forget ice reflects the Sun’s energy back into space; open water absorbs it. So a planet with less ice warms faster, making more ice melt and so on until climate change spirals out of control.

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  • This is actually a very important release, coming as it does from NASA, which has been throttled by the Administration from saying anything stronger than “Gee, it’s getting warm in here.” In addition to the satellite studies, which as quite conclusive, there is the equally strong results from Ice station Sheba, a research effort run by NSF and the Canadian NSERC, where a Canadian icebreaker was frozen into the ice a few years ago, repeating an experiment 20 years before. There is a very troubling reduction in the temperature and salinity difference of cold water that sinks in the Artic, compared to surface water. Recent measurements show that current difference between the sinking colder water and the surface water is only 40% of the way things were 20 years ago. This is what drives North Atlantic oceanographic circulation.

    The current climate models certainly underpredict past global climate variation. Things like melting of Arctic sea ice that causes accelerated warming of surface water are not really handled well in the models. If ocean temperatures rise, they will destabliize methand hydrates trapped in sediments on the continental shelves and in the permafrost. Methane is amuch more dangerous greenhouse gas than CO2. 55 million years ago the Earth had subtropical conditions at the north pole, and warmer-than-body-temperature water in the tropics. Look in the June issue of Nature …

    So, what’s it going to take to get people onboard? What will eliminate the embarassing politically motivated lying about the science that is going on? Just because people may hate Al Gore doesn’t necessarily mean that what he is trying to explain is wrong? Man’s activities now exceed those of ‘nature’ in changing the earth’s surface. It is true that CO2 has been higher in the very distant past, it doesn’t mean that mankind cannot tip the balance and provide climate change. In fact, from the study of the past, it is inescapable that things can actually get much, much worse.

    Will we see an end to all NASA reports on climate?

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