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UN Climate Report Fails To Capture Arctic Ice: MIT 465

Posted by timothy
from the models-in-collision dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The United Nations' most recent global climate report 'fails to capture trends in Arctic sea-ice thinning and drift, and in some cases substantially underestimates these trends,' says a new research from MIT. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, forecasts an ice-free Arctic summer by the year 2100. However, the Arctic sea ice may be thinning four times faster than predicted, according to Pierre Rampal and his research team of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)."
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UN Climate Report Fails To Capture Arctic Ice: MIT

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 14, 2011 @06:35PM (#37089380)

    The anti-Global Warming people will ignore it. The details don't matter, the truth doesn't matter, and if there's the slightest mistake, error, or just plain poorly worded statement, they'll treat it as proof of a conspiracy dedicated to driving man back to the Stone ages, except with less Jesus and more abortions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The anti-Global Warming people will ignore it. The details don't matter, the truth doesn't matter, and if there's the slightest mistake, error, or just plain poorly worded statement, they'll treat it as proof of a conspiracy dedicated to driving man back to the Stone ages, except with less Jesus and more abortions.

      And trolls will trot out some generic stereotype strawman, then post as Anonymous Coward. /irony noted

    • by tp1024 (2409684) on Monday August 15, 2011 @01:57AM (#37091566)
      There can be no doubt about the science, when so many experts agree. What's the point anyway in their childish insistence that predictions must be accurate. After all, this is a complex system those scientists are dealing with. I mean, hell, we don't even really understand how the ice ages came about or what exactly happened to the Sahara in the last couple of thousand years. We don't even know what the weather will be like next Sunday.

      You can't really expect those scientists to get everything exactly right the first time, they are scientists, they can't do miracles. And besides, science is changing all the time - it's nothing unusual.
    • driving man back to the Stone ages, except with less Jesus and more abortions.

      How does one achieve less than zero Jesus in the new stone-age?

  • I guess we'll all drown, then.
    • by bunratty (545641)
      Melting Arctic sea ice will not raise sea level. Melting ice sheets on land (mostly Greenland and Antarctica) will make sea level rise.
  • We obviously won't be able to stop this melting by just reducing emissions. It will be really interesting to see what happens with shipping lanes and military strategy if we can go right over the pole (with boats, instead of just with missiles).
    • More importantly, even if we CAN stop this ice from melting by cutting emissions, we aren't willing to do what it would take to cut the emissions that much. Most people would rather have a car than a polar bear (and me too, to be honest).
      • by SnapShot (171582) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:30PM (#37089710)

        It would be different if I could ride a polar bear to work, though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bunratty (545641)
        Cutting carbon emissions doesn't mean we can't have cars. It means that cars need to be more energy efficient in the near future and run on energy not derived from fossil fuels in several decades. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions doesn't mean doing without. It seems that most people who don't want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions really just don't want to lower their standard of living. Fortunately, we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly and keep our standard of living.
        • According to Hansen et al. [arxiv.org], we not only have to stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere, we have to start removing it immediately because there is already too much.

          Your solution is talking about 'running on energy not derived from fossil fuels in several decades,' but that isn't soon enough. We need a solution that will work now.

          In other words, if Hansen is right, we're screwed. Because we aren't going to implement a solution right now.
          • by bunratty (545641)
            According to Hansen et al (from the link you gave) "An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects." We do have decades to act.
        • Cutting carbon emissions doesn't mean we can't have cars. It means that cars need to be more energy efficient in the near future and run on energy not derived from fossil fuels in several decades. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions doesn't mean doing without. It seems that most people who don't want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions really just don't want to lower their standard of living. Fortunately, we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly and keep our standard of living.

          And save money at the same time as reducing resource usage.

        • by Arlet (29997)

          Not really. Reducing carbon emissions only delays the point where we've burned all the useful carbon in the ground. Since the CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for over 1000 years, it doesn't really make a difference whether we burn all the carbon in 100 years or in 150 years.

          If you want to keep CO2 lower, we need to decide to leave some carbon in the ground, and never use it. At the same time, we should probably find a way to sequester existing CO2.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The US military has detailed information on ice sheet thickness going back 50 years but it's mostly classified. The Russians have similar information and I think their excitement recently over exploiting the arctic shows where they think the trend is heading. They aren't looking at a 100 years from now but in the next decade or two. Most of the discussion is over coverage of the ice but the more telling is thickness. As the ice thins a huge part of the arctic could be exposed in a single season from a major

    • by kenh (9056) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @08:56PM (#37090188) Homepage Journal

      50 years of data sounds like a lot, until you realize it doesn't even go back in time far enough to include the last ice age... It's like extrapolating the stock market's performance for the day by analyzing the previous few minutes of trading.

  • Better link (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:02PM (#37089552)

    Screw ibtimes, worthless ad-walling craps.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110811113956.htm [sciencedaily.com]

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:08PM (#37089598)
    Typical science news "ZOMG our predictions could be wrong, but we need $x million to do more research about if we are right or not". Everything is made into a crisis to get more funding. Just look at all the hyped up illnesses in the past decade, if all those "predictions" were right all of us would be dead with bird flu/swine flu/MERSA/SARs.
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:17PM (#37089652)

      Everything is made into a crisis to get more funding.

      Therefore it's absolutely safe to conclude that there can be no possible crises ever.

      [/s] SARS, the bird flu, and the swine flu were made into crises by the media, not scientists. If you equate what you hear in the news with science, you've got big problems. As far as MERSA goes, it does seem to be fairly bad. [webmd.com] I don't know if some scientist told you that everyone was going to die in 3 years if they didn't get funded or what, but this anti-science thing you've got going on is stupid.

    • by chrb (1083577) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @08:02PM (#37089926)

      Just look at all the hyped up illnesses in the past decade, if all those "predictions" were right all of us would be dead with bird flu/swine flu/MERSA/SARs.

      Can you point to a single reputable scientist who claimed that everyone in the world was going to die from a flu pandemic? I'm not a flu expert, but my personal opinion is that the scientists actually understated the threat of a flu pandemic, whilst the media overstated it. The problem with the media is that they deal in the now, and have very little grasp of reporting long-term threats. Scientists tend to be more cautious and won't make predictions that aren't backed up with numbers.

      The 1918 flu pandemic [wikipedia.org] infected 32% of the world's population, and killed 3% of the world's population. As far as I can see, there is absolutely no reason why such a pandemic couldn't be repeated today. And whether it will be more or less deadly is impossible to predict - H5N1 [wikipedia.org] killed 60% of infected humans - a mortality rate far higher than the 1918 flu. If H5N1 was as transmissable as the 1918 flu then over 3 billion people would've been killed. This is a number and a risk far in excess of the danger of terrorism, and yet we will spend literally trillions of dollars "fighting terrorism", whilst we spend only millions seeking flu vaccines.

      Given the potential danger from flu, and the fact that the victims would be everyone on the planet, it seems like the per capita risk is several orders of magnitudes higher than terrorism. And yet, all of the funding, and all of the political debate, focuses on terrorism. It's crazy, and people who brush it under the carpet by saying "well, we haven't had another pandemic yet", have entirely missed the point. The fact that the 2009 swine flu outbreak [wikipedia.org] didn't kill millions isn't a reason to believe that the threat does not exist - rather, the fact that the 2009 pandemic turned out to be caused by an entirely unseen new variant of the flu that incorporated genes from 5 different viruses should prove beyond any doubt that flu evolution and mutation does pose a continued threat to humanity.

      But instead of heeding this warning, people like you will say "Ahh stupid scientists got it wrong! Everyone didn't die". But in fact 18000 did die, and it is only down to chance that this particular flu variant wasn't more lethal and more widely spread. How many dollars have been spent for each victim of 9/11 fighting the terrorism threat? How many dollars have been spent for each victim of H5N1 fighting the flu threat? For whatever reasons, our society is very bad at assessing risk when it comes to long term threats. We judge everything through the lens of the media, which reports current events news, and anything longer than a decade can be kicked into the long grass in the political world.

      Rant over...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        But in fact 18000 did die,

        Every July, I dress up in my Red, White, and Blue and tell people about the ATTACK on this country by H5N1! The flue hates our Freedom!

        They ask, "How can Flu hate our Freedom!"

        And I respond, "it's because we're Free!"

        If that's true, they say and it was about Freedom, then why didn't the Flu attack Sweden?! I say, "IT DID! [rense.com] That's how treacherous it is!

        I've protested! And no one pays attention, but we wake up and find our nation ruled by the law of the Flu, they'll wake up! They sure will!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cbeaudry (706335)

        There is so much to say about the latest swine flu fiasco I wont get into it in details, because its a much too long converstation.

        However, 18000 deaths for a seasonal flu is just par for the course and also much below average.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flu_pandemic [wikipedia.org]

        There are many reasons why the flu, though something to keep a close eye on, is not to be as feared as it once was. Nutrition, general population health and hygiene to name a few.

        Now, I'm not against vaccines, keeping a close eye on the flu str

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        the deaths from 1918 were from secondary infections. no penicillin, won't happen again.

  • Politics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DreadfulGrape (398188) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:12PM (#37089616)

    Interesting that /. has categorized this article as "Politics" instead of "Science."

    Not that I'm complaining, necessarily.

  • Terrible Headline (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:13PM (#37089624)
    The way the headline reads, it looks like MIT is accusing the UN of not taking Arctic ice into account in their global warming calculation, i.e. MIT says there should be less global warming because the UN forgot to calculate a cold thing.

    That is the OPPOSITE MESSAGE from what the story actually says. Does slashdot even have editors anymore?

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday August 14, 2011 @07:50PM (#37089828) Journal
      It seems more-or-less to represent the article. If you want a direct quote from the article that kind of conveys the same message, there is this one:

      On the other hand, large cracks in winter's ice cover help create new ice, since the extremely cold air in contact with the liquid ocean promotes refreezing. Because "everything is coupled" in these intricate feedback loops, "it's hard to predict the future of Arctic sea ice," Rampal says.

    • by AdamHaun (43173)

      Does slashdot even have editors anymore?

      Yes, but they seem to think global warming is fiction.

    • Apparently, I've forgotten to read between the lines of a scientific paper, because it doesn't sound like much of a polemic.

      Here's the discussion.

      Discussion and summary:
      Consistent with AR4, this analysis demonstrates that observed and modeled late 20th century Arctic sea ice loss cannot result from natural variability alone. Indeed, an anthropogenic influence on the most extreme observed 1979-2010 negative trends is now evident for all trend lengths examined (2-54 years). While CCSM4 can reproduce the observed ice loss, it also shows that internal variability exerts a strong influence on sea ice trends, especially on sub-20 year timescales. Comparing a six-member CCSM4 ensemble to observed trends suggests that internal variability has enhanced observed ice loss and facilitated detection of an anthropogenic influence on observed trends during the satellite era (1979-present). In a warming world, multi-decadal negative trends increase in frequency and magnitude, trend variability on 2-10 year timescales increases, and when internal variability counteracts anthropogenic forcing, positive trends frequently occur on 2-20 year timescales in the second half of the 20th century, and on 2-10 year timescales in the first half of the 21st century.

      But maybe I've missed something. Read the paper [ucar.edu] and tell me what you think.

      • by tp1024 (2409684)
        We only have data of 32 years. The paper is trying to derive from that basis the natural variability of ice-cover over decades and assigns all the residual variability to non-natural - that is, anthropogenic - factors. They do that by integrating this data into huge simulation runs of up to 4000 years:

        Over 4000 years of CCSM4 integrations were used to calculate trends for this study. Natural trends were derived from a 1300-year long control run with constant 1850 forcing (1850CNT) and from an 850-year long

    • Ice melting is a positive feedback mechanism. Less ice means less reflection, which means more heat gain, which means less ice.

      Underestimating ice melting would mean underestimating temperature increases.

  • It has been known for a while that the 2007 report failed to include the effect of sea ice loss, mainly because there was no reliable data at that time, I think. We aren't going to drown in 10, 20 or 30 years, but sea ice is shrinking and thinning faster than previously expected. Most glaciers are shrinking too.
    • by bunratty (545641)
      I think you're pretty confused. The 2007 report failed to include the effect of ice sheet loss on sea level rise. The 2007 IPCC report did include sea ice loss, which has other effects, such as decreasing the albedo of Earth which speeds up warming. One thing in particular sea ice loss doesn't do is raise sea level, because the ice is floating.
  • It's on this spreadsheet that I totally have on my other laptop. There's an official looking logo on it and everything. The logo has an eagle, that's how serious I am.

    Now, give me funding or else your children will be raped to death by walruses.

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