Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Atlantic on the Arctic

In the November, 2008 Atlantic Monthly's map feature, I ran across a "Sea Change" about changes in the Arctic. It startled me. Here's one excerpt:

BEFORE OUR EYES, the Arctic is changing from an impenetrable wasteland into an oceanic crossroads. The polar ice cap has lost up to half its thickness near the North Pole in just the past six years and may have passed a tipping point; it is now shrinking at more than three times the rate predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only four years ago. At the current pace, the Arctic may well be ice-free in summer by 2013.

You'd think this story would crowd Miley Cyrus right off the front pages, but I'm afraid that in the judgment of modern American newsroom editors, her frosty smile prevails over the Arctic Ice Cap. Someone on the Atlantic Monthly seems to have enough courage to report this story. I used to subscribe to the Atlantic Monthly. Maybe I'll resubscribe.

A friend suggested that if the worldwide economic meltdown damps down economic activities enough to stem the polar meltdowns, then perhaps this bitter medicine will be good for us. Meanwhile, I think we kindergarten teachers are going to have to come up with a new story about where Santa Claus lives:

The fabled Northwest Passage opened this summer for the second time in history—and the second year in a row. The Northeast passage (also called the Northern Sea Route) over Eurasia first fully opened to shipping in 2005; shipping is already extensive within that region, particularly in the Barents Sea. Yet both routes, sought by ancient mariners, are likely to be used for only a few years. By 2025, if not before, most ships in the Arctic will likely sail straight over the pole avoiding coastal-state jurisdictions and shaving still more miles off their journeys. Much of the world's international shipping will reorient itself as a result.

Here's a link to the online version of the article: Sea Change. If you click over there, you'll be able to see a slide show related to this topic.


Sarah Lulu said...

So true ...why IS that not the talk on everybody's lips instead of who is having a bad hair day in tinseltown!

Delwyn said...

Climate change is scarey stuff, worse than the weegee. I like to think that the the world has a way of righting itself. Have the poles ever shrunk before in recorded history?

Delwyn said...

Uh oh forgot my gratitude

for sarah lulu
for you
and for the poles

Dan Gurney said...

Delwyn, definitely not in recorded history, which only goes back what? about 5,000 years, halfway back to the end of the last ice age, for Pete's sake. In the earth's far more distant (prehuman) history the poles have melted. Otherwise, how could there be oil deposits in the far north?

But human civilization--and the ecosystems upon which civilization depends--both seem to me to be dependent on climates remaining much as they've been in the past 5,000 years. Now,thanks to capitalisticancerousgrowth (I just coined a new 9-syllable word there!) that's looking very unlikely.

John R Knox said...

Shorter sea routes may be helpful, but the rest of Climate change is decidedly not. We all need to support carbon taxes, alternative energy and more responsible consumer behavior if we want a habitable world for our kids and grandkids.

Dan Gurney said...

John, I so agree. The changes you mention would be just the beginning of what must be done.

It occurred to me that very soon after the Arctic ice cap melts away, the Arctic Ocean will warm so quickly that the ice on Greenland and the Antarctic will melt into the ocean, making sea levels rise. Most of the seaports around the world will be inundated by rising sea levels, so they'll have nowhere to dock.

And agriculture will be so disrupted that there won't be stuff to put in ships. So, in short, polar navigation is not a good idea. Preserving the ice caps ought to be among our generation's most urgent priorities.

Alden said...

The fact that you say 'we will have to think up a new story about Santa Claus' is very revealing you know Dan - is there the implication in all this that you DON'T believe in Santa Claus? - good god man what has got into you!!? - He lives at the NORTH POLE and if the weather gets really warm he will wear red shorts, red T shirt and New Zealand made Jandels - Jeezz man.

Dan Gurney said...

And, no doubt, Alden, Santa will have a small home down at the harbor, his yacht moored there, and visible from his breakfast nook's window.