Enormous glacier calves in largest Arctic event seen in 48 years

By Phil Plait | August 23, 2010 7:00 am

The NASA Earth-science satellite Earth Observing-1 has returned another amazing picture: the calving of Petermann Glacier off Greenland. The break happened on August 5, and this shot was taken 11 days later:

eo1_petermanglacier

The fjord is to the bottom, and the ice island that broke off is moving to the upper left. The picture is so clear and detailed that the scale is hard to determine by eye, but when you grasp it it’s mind-boggling: that chunk of ice is more than 25 kilometers long. That’s 15 miles.

Having a hard time grokking that? Here’s a picture of New York City to the same scale:

nyc

I labeled Manhattan and Central Park, which you can barely see. That big chunk of ice just off the north end of the remaining glacier is as big as downtown Manhattan itself. The big island that broke off is roughly 1/4 the size of the entire glacier.

The obvious question is: is this an indication of global warming? Not necessarily. Glaciers calve all the time. And even though this is the largest such fracturing seen in the Arctic since 1962, we can’t extrapolate too much from it… though scientists can use this event to understand how dynamic glaciers can be. With the sea ice thinning — and it certainly is — the more we know, the better.

NASA has more images of the calving, though none as detailed or as hauntingly beautiful as this one. That page also has links to more information about this massive and stupendous event.

Image credit: the NASA EO-1 team and the United States Geological Survey.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Science

Comments (45)

  1. Grand Lunar

    There’ll be no missing this berg, should a lookout on a ship see it!

    I’m curious what all that melting ice does to the ocean’s salinity.

  2. Oh, didn’t you see Dennis Quaid describe the salinity result in “The Day After Tomorrow” LMAO!!! ;)

    (That movie was so bad, I kept looking around for William Shatner… )

  3. Messier Tidy Upper

    Just curious but does anyone know why is this called “calving” instead of say “lambing” or just breaking off?

    I’m not sure why an ice sheet or glacier should be considered a mother cow! ;-)

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hey, I mentioned this event before too – in this article via SBS news some time ago :

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1324677/Huge-ice-island-threatening-shipping

    which I noted in comment # 19 on the “Sea ice coming and going” thread

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/08/19/sea-ice-coming-and-going/#comment-291594

    So er .. don’t I get a shout out or “tip of the glacier” or something BA? A snowball even? Please? ;-)

  5. Can the polar bears on board the new iceberg claim refugee status when they drift into another country?

  6. QueenToBishop

    Isn’t Randi a climate-change denier? Have you ever discussed that with him, Phil?

  7. @Romeo, you tell the polar bears they have to go back Greenland.

  8. Chuck

    Well, the good news is that there is probably enough plastic in the oceans to permenantly replace that part of the glacier.

  9. Jason Dick

    The obvious question is: is this an indication of global warming? Not necessarily.

    I would go even stronger than this and say absolutely not. One singular, local event cannot ever be evidence for or against global warming. Global warming can only be measured in aggregate: looking at averages over time and space, examining changes in rates of calving of glaciers, etc. One event doesn’t give that, as there’s no baseline, and short-term variation can produce just about any local, short-term observation you want.

    So no, this is not evidence of global warming, but it is one single data point among a vast array that, when combined together, paint a picture clear as day: our world is warming, we’re causing it, and there will be some pretty dire consequences unless we do something about it.

  10. @ 6. QueenToBishop Says:

    Isn’t Randi a climate-change denier? Have you ever discussed that with him, Phil?

    See this thread here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/12/17/randi-and-global-warming/

  11. QueenToBishop: IIRC, Randi got sucked into saying something that sounded denialist. Once the science was shown to him, he retracted that. Probably discussed earlier on this blog somewhere or other.

    ETA: Here’s a post: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/12/17/randi-and-global-warming/

  12. Phil’s blog is a constant source for my computer’s background images.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I’m not sure why an ice sheet or glacier should be considered a mother cow!

    It isn’t, it is the birthing that is the metaphor.

    At a guess, because it can be such a majestic event they chose the largest animal births around. Cattle cows calves, so do elk cows and elephants cows AFAIK.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM : Thanks. :-)

    @11. Trebuchet : Durnnit! I just posted that link too – how did you get yours through moderation so quickly when mine’s still not? ;-)

  15. M

    In general, the size of a calving event is not evidence of climate change: they will happen every so often regardless of whether it is a warming climate, a cooling climate, or a neutral climate. After all, a similar sized chunk of Petermann broke off 48 years ago.

    So, is there any climate relevant information from this break-off, other than being a really good picture? Yes. First, when the last chunk broke off the Petermann, there was a heck of a lot more glacier. Petermann has been retreating for a while, and _that_, unlike the size of a calving event, can be evidence of climate change. But it is only one glacier, and any individual glacier is at the mercy of local climate and characteristics: precipitation, air temperature, ocean temperature, cloudiness, and the randomness of fracturing events.

    But we have information that Petermann is not the only Greenland glacier undergoing retreat: see http://bprc.osu.edu/MODIS/?m=201008 for graphs for 4 major Greenland glaciers in the past decade.

    And we have evidence that Greenland is not the only region whose glaciers are retreating: see http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate/2009-time-series/?ts=glacier for global mass balance estimates for the last 70 years. Note that this is a graph not of the mass in the glaciers, but rather the rate of retreat of the glaciers: any number less than zero means that glaciers have lost mass compared to the year before. We haven’t had even a single year with an estimated net gain of ice since 1989, and on average, this analysis suggests that the planet has been losing ice for the length of the record, and AT AN ACCELERATING RATE for the last several decades. Now, THAT is evidence of climate change.

    But graphs and statistics don’t speak to most people in the same way as giant icebergs three times the size of Manhattan Island.

    -M

  16. This is wonderful, and your accompanying text is so perfect–not alarmist or politicized. Thanks, Phil.

  17. Rider

    Has anyone contacted Slartibartfast for comment?

  18. @MTU, #14: Well, yours got through now and is ahead of mine. We’ve ToSeeked each other. (Bautforum terminology there!)

  19. tmac57

    Slartibartfast: “Come with me or you shall be late.”
    Now what do you suppose he meant by that? Oh well,it probably isn’t important.

  20. ChazInMT

    I’m not a global warming skeptic, I think it is happening, and man may be to blame. I would like to pose a few questions.

    The Earth is going to warm or cool…I don’t think it has a habit of remaining stable for too long. So would we rather have an Ice Age (From what I understand, it is Earths preferred M O over the past few million years) with everything above 40° latitude under a mile thick glacier, like the ice chunk in the pretty picture, (in fact NYC would be under this in an Ice Age) leaving a relatively small habitable zone near the equator?

    Or, would we rather sink southern Florida and have it be a bit warmer than it was back in the 1900’s everywhere else?

    Could someone please name the “Dire Consequences” of Global Warming that outweigh an Ice Age?

    Ideally, I suppose, we could come up with a way to make the Earth a stable environment for hundreds of years using, say, the 1950’s decade as the “Juuuuust Right” temperature, but given a choice between Hot & Cold, I think Hot wins.

    Something to think about.

  21. Steve in Dublin

    Or, would we rather sink southern Florida and have it be a bit warmer than it was back in the 1900’s everywhere else?

    I’m guessing you don’t live in southern Florida (oh yeah, Montana, I see). And your supposition that we could get the temperature ‘just right’ is more than a little simplistic. The 25 billion tons of CO2 that we are (currently) pouring into the atmosphere every year has an effect that lasts much longer than you imagine. It’s a bit like trying to turn around the Titanic. The likelihood is that if we continue business as usual, the changing precipitation patterns brought on by GW will be causing crop failures around the world at a time when the world population is nudging the 9 billion mark. Not a pretty picture by any means.

    Bottom line is that while some places that are currently cold will have more bearable temperatures for a few years, the places that are already warm enough will become unbearably so. When it comes to messing with nature, it’s very difficult to have your cake and eat it too. We’re all in this together, so frankly, your ‘so what if bits of Florida are under water’ attitude seems more than a little… selfish. Not to mention short-sighted.

  22. M

    ChazInMt: The earth’s temperature has been “fairly stable” (in my definition, within 1 or 2 degrees C of the past century) for several thousand years. I see no reason it couldn’t keep going for several thousand more.

    If you read David Archer’s book, “The Long Thaw”, you’ll find out that we could stop emitting greenhouse gases today and yet what we’ve added is probably enough to avert the next Ice Age trigger period (which was only a marginal trigger) – meaning that we might already be safe from ice ages for tens of thousands of years.

    On the other hand, keep emitting GHGs and global mean surface temperatures could go up by 5 degrees C or more by the end of the century. High latitudes and land surfaces will warm much more than the mean. In comparison, the last ice age was probably 6-8 degrees C cooler than present (globally averaged), so 5 degrees is a lot.

    Consequences? Flooded coastal areas. Shifting ICTZ leading to massive droughts in the US Southwest. Changes in monsoon patterns in Southeast Asia leading to… well, Pakistan this summer. Arctic ice retreat leading to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns leading to… well, Russia this summer. Increased extreme precipitation events (Tennessee) but longer periods between precip events. Loss of most of the coral species we’re used to, and the species that can tolerate higher temperatures and acidity will take hundreds of years to recolonize the reefs. Shall I keep going?

    There’s no way we’re going to reduce emissions enough to avoid warming, so what we’d like to do is reduce the warming. Ice ages are not in the picture at all.

    -M

  23. Ross

    I finally finished the book “Superfreakonomics” and I would like to hear others’ opinion on the mitigation proposal described in the book: pumping sulfur dioxide into the polar stratosphere to mimic the cooling effect of supervolcano eruptions. (Chapter 5: “What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common?”)

  24. Ray

    So when do we start hooking tugs up the icebergs and towing them south to use the freshwater?

  25. I second Ross’ curiosity. Can anyone point to more (reliable) information about adding sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere to counter the effects of water vapor and other greenhouse gasses?

  26. Phil A

    I think you should recheck the scale of the NYC picture. It is about 15 miles from the WTC to the Harlem river; same as the size of the berg. On the NYC picture that same scale distance would take you well into Westchester county.

  27. Marcus

    Ross: That chapter was very poorly researched. My take on it is this is an “old lady who swallowed a fly” solution… eg, replace our great experiment of adding large amounts of CO2 to the planet with a new experiment of adding lots of sulfur dioxide to the stratosphere… without actually getting rid of the CO2 in the process!

    Problems with this approach:

    1) Climate Still Changes: Sulfate doesn’t exactly cancel out CO2 in terms of warming. So you can have a planet with net zero global warming, but lots of local warming and cooling in different places. Eg, this fixes global warming but not climate change. One example: Pinatubo may have “paused” global warming, but it lead to its own set of climate changes: http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/PinatuboPerspective1242.pdf. It would suck if we “fixed” global warming and alternated the Southeast Asian monsoon permanently.

    which leads to 2: This Solution is Politically Insane: Say the disappearance of Arctic Ice causes a jet stream realignment which screws US and Canadian agriculture. So, Canada and the US make a bilateral decision to take the sulfur piles in Canada described in Freakonomics and inject it into the stratosphere. Two years later there’s no monsoon rainfall in India and China. Was it the fault of the aerosol injection? It doesn’t matter. Everyone in the world with bad weather will blame the US-Canada aerosol initiative, and world politics will be totally destabilized.

    Problem 3: Stratospheric ozone: We’ve just managed to stop destroying the ozone layer with CFCs, so we’re going to kill it with sulfates?

    Problem 4: Ocean acidification: All that CO2 is still dissolving in the ocean and increasing acidity.

    Problem 5: Surface dimming: Aerosols block sunlight (that’s how they cool stuff). Plants kind of like sunlight. Bad.

    Problem 6: Can’t stop! Maybe, if something went disastrously wrong with the climate, geoengineering might be an appropriate short term fix… but, it better be matched with CO2 controls, otherwise we’ve committed ourselves to permanently injecting this stuff, because warming will be FAST if we ever stop.

    Problem 7: The problems I haven’t yet thought of. We just don’t understand the climate well enough to be messing with it on this scale. That goes for doubling CO2 concentrations, and that goes for pumping sulfates into the atmosphere.

    Enough of an opinion for you? (honestly, the authors lost a _lot_ of credibility points with that chapter)

    -M

  28. Steve Huntwork

    “After all, a similar sized chunk of Petermann broke off 48 years ago.”

    As we recover from the little ice age, this is expected and I hope that it will continue. The alternative (return of a little ice age) is horrible beyond thinking.

    But “Chicken Littles” will consider this as chicken feed.

  29. scgvlmike

    @Phil: “Not necessarily. Glaciers calve all the time. And even though this is the largest such fracturing seen in the Arctic since 1962, we can’t extrapolate too much from it… though scientists can use this event to understand how dynamic glaciers can be”

    It’s that degree of intellectual honesty that makes me respect you & your blog more than so much else that I read on a daily basis. Too often I read assertions “X means Y means Z”, without an honest understanding of how Y was understood, much less how Z was derived; you, however, don’t do that. You present the raw data, along with an explanation of any transformations needed to arrive at a true understanding of the data.

    In other words, in simpler terms: YOU ROCK.

    May you keep up your work for decades to come, and may the unenlightened & (presently) unimaginative grow due to your efforts!

  30. M

    “The alternative (return of a little ice age) is horrible beyond thinking.”

    Er. That’s a small failure of logic. The choices are not

    a) Continued retreat of Petermann and worldwide glaciers at accelerating rates and
    b) Return of a little ice age.

    I kind of like option “c”: namely, things stay reasonably close to present-day conditions. Not that that’s an option anymore… we’re going to be getting warmer under almost all probable future scenarios. But maybe, just maybe, if we are either a) smart and collected and get our acts together to reduce emissions, or b) really darn lucky because the earth’s climate system turns out to be more stable than our best estimates suggest, (or c, some of both), then we’ll keep that warming slow enough to avoid some fairly horrible consequences that will make a little ice age look like a walk in the park.

    (Also – was the 1 degrees C global cooling in the little ice age so bad that it is “horrible beyond thinking”? If so, do you have any hope of comprehending the consequences of 4 degrees C or more warming in the next century?)

    -M

  31. Paul in Sweden

    from #86 sea ice coming and going on Bad Astronomy
    -http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/08/19/sea-ice-coming-and-going/comment-page-2/#comment-293090

    Greenland Ice Island Prompts Global Warming Debate

    And ocean science professor Andreas Muenchow says years of data on the glacier itself show that after this month’s event, the mass of ice is still, on average, discharging about the same amount of water it usually does – some 600 million cubic meters a year, or about 220,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. “Even a big piece like this over 50 years is not that significant. It’s just the normal rate,” he said.

    Muenchow warns people not to jump to conclusions. “An event like this, this specific event, all flags go immediately up, ‘Oh, let’s explain this by global warming.’ I cannot support that,” he said.”
    -http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/Greenland-Ice-Island-Prompts-Global-Warming-Debate-100590574.html

    “Fletcher’s Ice Island”
    -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher’s_Ice_Island
    Fletcher’s Ice Island or T-3 was an iceberg discovered by U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph O. Fletcher. Between 1952 and 1978 it was used as a manned scientific research station that included huts, a power plant, and a runway for wheeled aircraft [1]. The iceberg was a thick tabular sheet of glacial ice that drifted throughout the central Arctic Ocean in a clockwise direction. First inhabited in 1952 as an arctic weather report station, it was abandoned in 1954 but reinhabited on two subsequent occasions. The station was inhabited mainly by scientists along with a few military crewmen and was resupplied during its existence primarily by military planes operating from Barrow, Alaska. The iceberg was later occupied by the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, and still serves as a base of operations for the Navy’s arctic research projects such as sea bottom and ocean swell studies, seismographic activities, metrological studies and other classified projects under the direction of the Department of Defense.[2] Before the era of satellites, the research station on T-3 had been a valuable site for measurements of the atmosphere in the Arctic.

    ___________________
    Messier, here is a telling image of the ice island from the Danish Meteorological Institute(DMI) I would like you to be particularly attentive to the fact that these images do not show the ice-island ready to drift out into open waters as the images that the MSM has shown us. In fact during the minimum of the arctic ice during the summer of 2007 the images that were released portrayed waters that appeared to be ice free but in reality were quite congested with ice. In the DMI satellite images in the link below note the ice-island and the surrounding open waters. What the media tells us and what the actual scientists and instruments show us are worlds apart. I can only assume that once you see the images you would agree that the new ice-island will be locked and drifting for many years to come.

    “Grønlandsk gletsjer knækker – se billederne”
    -http://www.dmi.dk/dmi/groenlandsk_gletsjer_knaekker_-_se_billederne

    All the text is in Danish but the only significant text is that this new ice-island is from the most northern glacier. What I would like you to pay attention to is the color of the glacier and what is normally portrayed as open water beyond the glacier.

    You will see a big difference from the AP image. That Ice Island is not liberated into an ice free environment and will most likely depending on the currents remain there for many years to come.
    ___________________

    Climate Change is happening, this is no surprise. There is no silver bullet, no one dynamic governs our global climate. There are good scientists who recognize our climate has changed, some believing that mankind has contributed to this change. Some have been ostracized and labeled as deniers because they do not hold true to the anthropogenic CO2 emission doctrine of the Church of Global Warming. Our global climate is complex. We do not have all of the pieces gathered, quantified and understood. Our climate models are useful and at the same time recognized as crude and not representative of our actual climate.

    “The set of available models may share fundamental inadequacies, the effects of which cannot be quantified.”

    – IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 805.

    It is hubris to believe with our rudimentary understanding of climate to believe we are at this point in time masters of our Universe and can some how pause our ever changing climate to the present state which some believe is ideal solely by the eradication of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not the predominate dynamic in our global climate.

  32. podrock

    Absolutely stunning photo.

    The berg has many cracks; it wil be interesting to see how it breaks up.

    Wanting to learn more about this glacier, I came across a rather extensive examination at

    http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/petermann-glacier/

  33. Richie

    In similar news, a huge chunk of the Tasman glacier here in New Zealand has also calved off. Nowhere near the size of Petermann, but still the biggest calving down here for a couple of decades.

  34. Y’know what’s really interesting? When I click on the glacier image to view the embiggened version and zoom into a part that’s solid ice, it almost looks like a Cassini close-flyby image of Enceladus — almost.

  35. M

    “It is hubris to believe with our rudimentary understanding of climate to believe we are at this point in time masters of our Universe and can some how pause our ever changing climate to the present state which some believe is ideal solely by the eradication of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not the predominate dynamic in our global climate.”

    You don’t need to understand something to be able to break it (and to know you’re breaking it). We understand enough about the climate system to know that adding huge amounts of CO2 is likely to cause bad things to happen. We can guess at those bad things, and the magnitude of them, but no, we don’t know exactly.

    And in fact, on a global scale, at 1.7 W/m2 and growing, human additions to CO2 concentrations are indeed the predominate single change in forcing of the climate in the last couple hundred years: the biggest solar minimum in a century just barely put a dent in the rate of warming. Ditto for the biggest volcano in a century (Pinatubo).

    What is hubris is to think that we can treat the (atmosphere, Gulf, forests, near-Earth-orbit) as our dumping grounds and get away scot free without repercussions.

    -M

  36. Colombia

    The likelihood is that if we continue business as usual, the changing precipitation patterns brought on by GW will be causing crop failures around the world at a time when the world population is nudging the 9 billion mark. Not a pretty picture by any means.

    Or something completely different may occur.

    I love how there hasn’t really been anyone in history who has accurately predicted the future (beyond the occasional lucky guess about some specefic item) and yet random blog posters around the Internet are so sure of themselves on all manner of things decades or even centuries away.

  37. ChazInMT

    All I asked is for consequences more dire than an Ice Age, I get “Crop Failures (Maybe)” Hmm looking at my list of Ice Age problems….lets see, Oh yeah, right here under mile thick glaciers covering large chunks of North America and Europe, Crop Failures…It’s on my list too. And I like the personal attacks from someone who couldn’t possibly know anything about me, I’m selfish because I have an opinion that part of Florida may end up underwater and I prefer this to Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New England States, et cetera, being buried under snow permanently. OK, you can call me selfish.

    Ya know, in looking at the charts of CO2, Temperature, Ice Ages & such….It looks all the world to me like Temps and CO2 reach this certain point, and SNAP…Something says “Enough!!”, maybe a CO2 sucking mutant, Pine Tree or warm ocean loving Algae, Bacteria, or Plankton goes nuts and just scours all the CO2 gone…Poof, Ice Age. Out of the frying pan into the freezer.

    Another funny thought I have, we figure out a way to moderate temperatures, get everything “Juuuuuust Right” and BAM Tambora explodes, or we get smacked by an asteroid…and God says Ha!

    Bottom Line here, the CO2 level changes and Global Warming/Cooling periods have been occurring without mans intervention for millions of years, if the Earth decides it; we are all just bugs in the path of an 18 wheeler, deal with it.

  38. ChazInMT

    This would be a scale image.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  39. Phil A
  40. Mike G

    Chaz, pay attention to the time and temperature scales on those charts of ice age cycles. It takes about 120,000 years to change 12 deg and back again- ~100kyr of cooling and a 20kyr “snap” back to interglacial temps (Keep in mind that the entire history of agriculture only spans about 10,000 yrs). That’s a cooling rate of roughly 0.012 degrees/century. Assuming we’re about to be plunged into another ice age, at that rate it will be almost 6,000 years from now before the warming that has already occurred since pre-industrial times is offset by the natural cooling cycle. Given that crops grew just fine at the temps seen in the mid 1800s, it’s a pretty safe bet that natural cooling cycles, even if they were the dominant forcing at the present (which they aren’t), would not pose a threat to crops for several millennia. If you want to compare the risks from warming vs. cooling, at least compare them on similar timescales (e.g. 0.012 C cooling vs. 3 C warming by 2100).

  41. Mike G

    Ross, see here: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n8/abs/ngeo915.html and here: http://royalsociety.org/Geoengineering-the-climate/ for work on geoengineering (which includes pumping sulfates into the atmosphere). In short, the results are much more uncertain than the results of pumping lots of CO2 into the atmosphere, and it would be extremely hard to make everyone happy.

  42. Steve in Dublin

    Ya know, in looking at the charts of CO2, Temperature, Ice Ages & such….It looks all the world to me like Temps and CO2 reach this certain point, and SNAP…Something says “Enough!!”, maybe a CO2 sucking mutant, Pine Tree or warm ocean loving Algae, Bacteria, or Plankton goes nuts and just scours all the CO2 gone…Poof, Ice Age. Out of the frying pan into the freezer.

    According to ice core samples, a CO2 increase *follows* a temperature increase (by about 800 years) for hundreds of thousands of years now. And we think we have a good explanation for it:

    Milankovitch cycles

    These put the Earth into an ice age, but at the other end they help pull it out again. Melting of ice sheets and heating of the oceans caused by increased solar irradiation causes trapped CO2 to be released, which acts as a feedback to further warm the earth, which releases more CO2, until the system reaches a relative equilibrium again.

    But since the industrial revolution, demonstrably for the first time in at least hundreds of thousands of years, increased CO2 *leads* temperature increase. And the CO2 concentration is also *way* higher than it has been from any of those ice core samples going back all that time. Simple physics tells us that that if (some) infrared radiation can’t escape the atmosphere since it is blocked by a greenhouse gas like CO2, that the extra heat has to contribute to warming the planet (both the surface and the oceans). We have measured this warming, and we can observe the effects of it. To deny it is happening is basically saying that you don’t trust scientists to have done their homework when it comes to AGW (but all the other science that brings you stuff like iPods, GPS, and modern medicine is somehow spot on).

    I’m selfish because I have an opinion that part of Florida may end up underwater and I prefer this to Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New England States, et cetera, being buried under snow permanently. OK, you can call me selfish.

    But that’s an extremely implausible scenario, for reasons that have been explained. An ice age is just not gonna happen for a long, long time if we keep artificially warming the planet.

  43. Brian Too

    @5. Romeo Vitelli,

    There’s a small island off Newfoundland (can’t remember the name–it’s small and relatively inconsequential). This island serves as a bird breeding site because there are no mammals, no reptiles, no predators (except perhaps predatory birds).

    Anyhow an Arctic Fox somehow made it’s way there and has been living a pretty good life for the last couple of years. Lonely I suppose, but lots of food! They think the fox got there via an iceberg that drifted down from the Arctic and the fox happened to be on board.

    There are biologists on the island studying the birds. When I heard the report (just last week I think) they were trying, unsuccessfully, to trap the fox and relocate it.

  44. Chris Winter

    Ross (#23) wrote: “I finally finished the book “Superfreakonomics” and I would like to hear others’ opinion on the mitigation proposal described in the book: pumping sulfur dioxide into the polar stratosphere to mimic the cooling effect of supervolcano eruptions.”

    What Marcus said (#27).

    There are two recent books on the subject of geoengineering (not just sulfate aerosols but cloud-brightening and plankton-goosing*). They are How to Cool the Planet by Jeff Goodell and Hacking the Planet by Eli Kintisch. Both are good, but I prefer the Kintisch.

    The authors talked to a lot of scientists, and most are united in saying that geoengineering methods should be considered a last resort.

    * Yes, I’m being flippant here.

  45. Ray

    @ 43, Brian Too,

    Thats the difference between egghead scientists and folks down here in central GA. If we had a fox eating our chickens the last thing we’d be trying to do is trap him. Shotgun, meet Fox. Fox, meet shotgun. Problem solved. And it cost approximately 50 cents.

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