Climate Change Yet Again Part 2

Carbon Released by Ray Dahlstrom

Mountain Echoes No 104 first published in March 2004  

The changes appear to be more rapid in the high latitudes. Mark Lynas in his High Tide: News from a Warming World (quotes accessed from the Guardian website) wrote of what is happening in Alaska. There the permafrost is melting causing houses to subside and roads to buckle. Changes are “faster and more terrifying than anyone could have predicted” and there is anecdotal evidence from the town of Fairbanks of retreating coastlines. In particular Lynas noted: “Alaska is baking. Temperatures in the state – as in much of the arctic – are rising 10 times faster than the rest of the world. And the effects are so dramatic that entire ecosystems are beginning to unravel, as are the lifestyles of the people that depend upon them. In many ways, Alaska is the canary in the coal mine, showing the rest of the world what lies ahead as global warming accelerates.”

It seems that the greenhouse effect is “amplified at high latitudes by a positive feedback: once snow and ice begin to melt, the reflectivity of the earth’s surface decreases, allowing more of the sun’s heat to be absorbed” which in turn causes further melting which continues in an upward spiral. The average Alaskan winter time temperatures have risen by 6 degrees centigrade an “absolutely enormous signal … bigger than any of the computer models have predicted”.

On the opposite side of the globe in the sub Antarctic Australian possession of Heard Island something similar to the Alaska situation seems to be occurring.  Here it has been recently calculated that the Brown glacier which was previously retreating at a rate of half metre a year for the 50 years to 2000 has since then retreated at the rate of 2 metres or 4 times the previous rate. According to a scientist involved this was an early sign of global warming (report ABC www. 7.3.04). (to be continued)

*this piece unedited