The North Pole could soon be ice free

The last time the North Pole was ice free was approximately 120,000 years ago. Modern human civilization has risen after the end of the last ice age, about 30,000 years ago. Within some lifetimes, the North Pole could be free of ice once again.

Provisional satellite data produced by the US National Snow & Ice Data Centre shows there were just over 11.1 million square kilometres of sea ice on June 1, of this year, compared to the average for the last 30 years of nearly 12.7 million square kilometres.

This difference – more than 1.5 million square kilometres – is about the same size as about six United Kingdoms.

Most of the remaining ice within the Arctic Circle would be trapped among the myriad of islands along Canada’s north coast.

The rapid warming of the polar region has been linked with extreme weather events such as “bomb cyclones”, flooding and out-of-season tornadoes.

And the sea ice off the north coast of Russia, which normally insulates the water below to keep it cool, is no longer present for much of the year, allowing the sea to get significantly warmer than before.

Loss of Antarctic ice has soared by 75 per cent in just 10 years

Scientists have monitored greenhouse gas methane – once frozen on the sea bed – bubbling up to the surface at an alarming rate.

According to one study published in the journal Nature, this could produce an average rise in global temperature of 0.6 degrees Celsius in just five years.

Less sea ice also means the surface of the Earth is darker, so it absorbs more of the sun’s energy.

An ice-free – and even an ice-reduced – Arctic is leading to global impacts on weather and ecosystems at unprecedented rates.

1 Comment

  1. Soundmind

    It seems on this site, when it comes to whether or not global warming is real, I’d say you’re preaching to the choir. But in this case it seems to be a choir of one.

    Industry justifies expenditures on energy savings by how much it will affect their bottom line. The problem is…..the engineers almost always get the calculations wrong. There are a lot of wolves out there selling snake oil and even the largest corporations who sell it are shameless. The methodology for calculating savings is immensely complex…if it’s done right. I’ll share a few of the common mistakes.

    One problem is the accounting procedure which I learned about from Bellcore’s capital assets people in their accounting department the first time I had to evaluate such a project. Most engineers not being accountants use what is called the simple payback method. I save x kilowatt hours per year, it costs y cents per kilowatt hour, I compare that reduced cost to the cost of the project and by simple division I get how many years it takes to recoup the investment and start making money. (most companies want to see no more than two to three years payback.) The method is dead wrong. The real method is called Net Present Value. This takes into account the depreciating value of the asset, for example a light fixture has a book life of 10 years. At that time a $100 investment is worthless but would still be worth $100 if it sat in a drawer instead. It also take into account the lost opportunity of capital such as interest from a bond, increased real estate taxes due to the greater value of the property, and many other factors. Therefore on top of the hit depreciation takes from savings, this other hit took 16% of the average depreciated value of the asset over its book life as well as Bellcore calculated it in the mid 1990s.. This changed payback from a year or two to eight or nine years…or never.

    That’s just the start. Right now a mechanical engineer and I are trying to figure out how to evaluate a 3M manufactured low e window film that promises enormous savings through both reduction of solar radiation and increased insulation value. Why this is better than a window shade or venetian blind is beyond me. The problem is extraordinarily complex depending on many dozens of factors. The mechanical engineer just pointed out that in the winter the saved value of heat loss due to conduction is offset by the lost value of infrared heat radiation that would otherwise enter the building. How do you evaluate the net gain or loss there? We don’t know. I contacted 3M and they have an expert who will explain how he calculates the savings based on our exact location and measurements he will make at our site, It took him over ten years to figure this method of calculation out and it has to take into account average climatic conditions at our site. For example, on a hot cloudy day the savings is less than on a sunny day at the same temperature. The savings varies on sunny days from day to day and hour to hour because the sun is at a different angle altering received radiated heat on each window. Even the orientation of the building has to be taken into consideration and only south facing windows would be candidates. I’ve suggested an empirical method using two adjacent identical offices, one with the film and one without whose only source of heat besides the sun and cooling are dedicated air conditioners and electric heaters that can be metered over the course of a year. A comparison would give some indication of the difference and potential savings. The quantity of heating and cooling could then be used to calculate the burdens on our central heating and chiller plants.

    Among the most disappointing of all are LED lamps designed to replace fluorescent lamps. Fixtures must be replaced since the photometrics are entirely different. The LED lamps cannot be retrofitted into existing fixtures. The light output in lumens per watt is only marginally greater for an 18 watt 4 foot LED lamp (which is slightly shorter than a fluorescent lamp) and its life expectancy is no better. The real rub is that a typical 4′ fluorescent lamp costs about $2 while the last time I checked a few years ago a comparable LED lamp cost $62. Payback is….never. For fluorescent lamps, lumens outputs per watt input is always about the same, 90 to 94 regardless of the type. From 24 watt T8s to 50 watt T5 HOs it remains the same. Differences in foot candles of illumination are related mostly to the coefficient of utilization of the fixture. Since I design to illumination level, if the client demands lower wattage lamps, I just specify more of them.

    I recently read an article that stated flatly that most plants that manufacture photovoltaic solar panels up to this point produce as much or more greenhouse gas in the manufacturing process than they save over their lifetime. They also produce a lot of chemical pollution. New methods may be significantly better but at present they are only a tiny fraction of overall production.

    There’s a lot more to it and that is only one of many kinds of project I work on. Frankly, it’s a lot more interesting than audio equipment and I get to spend many millions of dollars of other peoples’ money every year.


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