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As The Clouds Roll By
By Ernest Stewart
"The pace of global warming is accelerating and the scale of the impact is devastating. The time for action is limited - we are approaching a tipping point beyond which the opportunity to reverse the damage of CO2 emissions will disappear." ~~~ Eliot Spitzer
An international research team led by scientists from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium report in Nature Communications journal that cloud cover above the Northern Hemisphere's largest single volume of permanent ice is raising temperatures by 5.5 degrees F and accounting for 25% of the melting.
The conclusion, based on imaging from satellites and on computer simulations, is one more part of the global examination of the intricate climate systems on which harvests and the health of our species depend.
"With climate change at the back of our minds, and the disastrous consequences of global sea level rise, we need to understand these processes to make more reliable projections for the future, clouds are more important than we used to think," says the study leader, Kristof Van Tricht, a Ph.D research fellow in Leuven's Division of Geography and Tourism.
"Clouds always have several effects. On the one hand, they help add mass to the ice sheet when it snows. On the other, they have an indirect effect on the ice sheet as well.Of course, such research changes nothing; scientists have repeatedly confirmed that Greenland is melting at an increasing rate as a consequence of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- a result of the human combustion of fossil fuels that drives global warming.
Melting ice flows into the oceans, and sea level rise now seems inexorably inevitable. But what matters is the rate of rise.
Tristan L'Ecuyer, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and one of the study's co-authors, says:
"Over the next 80 years, we could be dealing with another foot (0.3 meters) of sea level rise around the world. Parts of Miami and New York City are less than two feet above sea level. Another foot of sea level rise, and suddenly you have water in the city. Once you know what the clouds look like, you know how much sunlight they're going to reflect, and how much heat from the Earth's surface they are going to keep in."Such conclusions are driven by data from new imaging and exploratory instruments in orbit aboard CloudSat and CALIPSO, two NASA satellites dedicated to examining the depth, thickness and composition of the planet's cloud cover.
The snowpack melts a little during the day; and, on a clear night, most of that would freeze again. But on an overcast night, the temperatures remain a little higher, and less of the meltwater turns back into ice. The rest drains away to the sea. This knowledge will pay off in a more sure understanding of the rate at which sea levels will rise.
"Many of the countries most susceptible to sea level rise tend to be the poorest and don't have the money to deal with it. This is something we have to get right if we want to predict the future," concludes Dr L'Ecuyer.
As 2015 was the hottest year on record, just as 14 of the last 15 years have been the hottest years on record; and the predictions on global warming from the 1990s are 3 to 5 times worse today than what was predicted then. One might expect that Manhattan and Southern Florida might go under the waves long before the 80 years that Dr. L'Ecuyer predicts, as the South Sea Islanders have seen their islands already going under the waves; and there's nothing they can do about it -- except move.
Not only will this be inconvenient for those living along the coasts, but, have no doubt, it'll affect all of us, certainly destroying the economy with trillions of dollars in damages!
08-06-1926 ~ 01-30-2016
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03-26-1923 ~ 02-02-2016
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12-19-1941 ~ 02-04-2016
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(c) 2016 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for 13 years was the managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter.