Glaciers in the Greenhouse: Polar Ice Might Have Little to do with Global Warming
January 13, 2008 9:44 AM
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Researchers at Scripps find evidence that glaciers are tougher than we might think
Global warming has been the hotly debated harbinger of the apocalypse in recent years. Rising ocean levels may put cities or perhaps
under salty ocean water while violent storms fueled by an over-warmed atmosphere wrack dry land.
Doom and gloom aside, one naturally occurring effect of raising ocean temperatures is the shrinking of polar ice caps and glaciers. The frozen water returning to the ocean contributes to climbing sea levels and should they disappear into the brine, could probably put most of the eastern seaboard under a pleasant warm ocean surf.
Or maybe they won't. Recently published data from a study done at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego indicates that there may have been glacial growth even during one of the strongest climate warmings in Earth's history, known as the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum.
"Until now it was generally accepted that there were no large glaciers on the poles prior to the development of the Antarctic ice sheet about 33 million years ago. This study demonstrates that even the super-warm climates of the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum were not warm enough to prevent ice growth," explains Richard Norris, professor of paleobiology at Scripps and co-author of the study, titled "
Isotopic Evidence for Glaciation During the Cretaceous Supergreenhouse
." The study is published in the most recent issue of
The researchers used two independent methods to harvest the data on which they base their claim. Both studies used microfossils from the Cretaceous period and examined them for telltale signs of glacial melt. In one test, the researchers used ocean surface dwelling microfossils and subtracted the ocean surface temperature record from the stable isotope record found in the fossils.
The second method involved bottom-dwelling and near-surface microfossils known as foraminifera. Stable oxygen isotopes were measured in these tests and were found to support the theory of growing icecaps via changing ocean chemistry. Both tests support the conclusion, and fall in line with previous studies which show that sea level fell 25-40 meters at the same time as the ice sheets would have been growing during the Cretaceous.
The catalyst for glacial growth during such a hot period is still a mystery, but some suggestions found in the study are that unusually cool summers could have fostered growth in the mountains of the current Antarctic ice cap, or that increased moisture in the air from the greenhouse affect could have increased winter snowfall in high latitudes and elevations.
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Masher The Movie
1/15/2008 1:36:06 PM
Just thought I'd share the ending of my latest screenplay, since there's no science being discussed here.
Camera pans across a small makeshift laboratory with primitive humanoid glyphs clumsily scratched on a blackboard. Sunlight fills the room. A disheveled middle-aged man puts his feet up on his cluttered desk as he thumbs through a magazine. An old Ted Nugent song plays over a tinny-sounding PA system. Enter Lord Inhofe in regal garb.
Lord Inhofe: Mister Asher!
A visibly shaken and unshaven Michael Asher scrambles up from his desk and adroitly tucks a girly magazine under his desk. An precariously arranged pile of unfinished manuscrips falls and spills across the floor.
Michael Asher: Y-Y-Yes-sir!
Lord Inhofe: LORD Inhofe, Michael!
Michael Asher: Yes, Yes...Lord Inhofe!
Lord Inhofe: Why haven't you gotten that report to Master Ted Stevens? We need that data to slow the Gore advance on the South! The Gore now stands near 100 meters tall and our operatives report that his laser vision and missile capabilities are near complete! Do you want to lose more to this nightmare?!
Michael Asher: U-uh-no sir...er...Lord Inhofe!
Lord Inhofe quickly spins on his heels and steps over a heaping pile of yellowed Energy & Environment articles.
Michael Asher: (muttering softly) If only they'd listen to me there wouldn't be Gore advancing from the South and we'd still have our women.
Michael Asher runs a limp hand over a sun-bleached photo of a young woman he once loved. He carefully studies her overly made up face and curiously masculine features--a hybrid of a young Tammy Faye Bakker and Carlson Tucker.
Michael Asher: You wouldn't betray me, would you? I know The Gore took you from me....I just know. But I'll win you back.
Michael Asher's daydream is broken by a darkening room (begin ominous tone from oboe and french horns).
Asher runs to the window where he gazes upon a rapidly advancing shadow, swallowing the frozen terrain as far as the eye can see.
Michael Asher(shrieking): They're taking our sun! Noooooooo! Give me back my suuuuunnnnnnn!
Camera pans away from the lab to a frozen tundra where a 500 meter tall Al Gore stands triumphantly positioning a giant solar array over the last remaining burnt-out concrete structure of the resistance. The window Asher was stainding in front of explodes and slams him into the chalkboard. Booming laughter drounds out the moans of pain from Asher and the few remaining members of the resistance.
Michael Asher(hopelessly pumping his fist in the air): "Damn you Gore, dammmmm youuuuuuu!"
Camera pans away to show a handful of misfits in the snow, infighting among themselves as they quickly try to establish dominance in the view of their new overlord in this dark, frozen wasteland.
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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