2006 is now officially the warmest year on record for the U.S. (At least until next year or the year after that one...)
That's not all, though. The National Center for Atmospheric Research just said that their latest studies indicate that the problem is far worse than they suspected, and that the Arctic Ocean could be nearly devoid of all ice as early as 2040.
(Which, incidentally, shouldn't be a problem, so long as you don't plan on living into your fifties, or having children.)
Oh, be sure to see the animation in that last link. Notice how large visible sections of the icepack above and on Greenland disappear entirely in that animation? Where do you think they have gone?
(Blub, blub, blub.)
But don't we have a lot of time? No. For those who haven't noticed, all the old predictions by the experts are being thrown out the window, because their original work didn't take into account all the various tipping points, global dimming, etc. The new facts are coming in, and sadly, they seem to indicate that James Lovelock is right again.
Of course, you can hope that there are some heretofore unseen triggers that might help cool the planet down -- given the fact that there are so many known triggers out there that will warm the planet up -- but given the earth's historic performance on such weather changes, I don't see this as all that likely. Global environmental changes can happen very rapidly... sorta like extinctions. And frankly, the previous species on the planet weren't pushing the buttons for extinction like we are.
Of course, it won't just be Greenland that disappears. It will be Florida, and NYC, and... well, let's just say that it's probably already too late to stop this from happening, if this reasearch is correct. All you can do is minimize the impact, and try to stop rising temperatures from setting off even more tipping points that would make the problem even worse. Oh... and you might want to move to Alaska or Canada, while you're at it.
Mmm. Nothing like melting permafrost! I love the smell of methane in the morning!
I also wanted to mention one very disturbing article that came out last year:
"We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an ice sheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds." . . .
This summer, lakes several kilometres across formed on the Greenland ice sheet, and drained away to the depths. Scientists measured how, within hours of the lakes forming, the vast ice sheets physically rose up, as if floating on water, and slid towards the ocean. That is why Greenland glaciers are flowing faster, and there are more icebergs breaking off into the Atlantic Ocean. That is why average sea level rise has increased from 2mm a year in the early 1990s to more than 3mm a year now.
Soon it could be a great deal more. Jim Hansen of NASA, George Bush's top climate modeller, predicts that sea level rise will be 10 times faster within a few years, as Greenland destabilises. "Building an ice sheet takes a long time," he says. "But destroying it can be explosively rapid."
Scalewise, it's a bit like an icecube sliding on a wet countertop. If you lose arctic ice, you expose all sorts of methane / greenhouse gas-producing peat. You also expose dark ground which absorbs the sun's heat, rather than ice which reflects it back into the atmosphere. Both factors help to accelerate global warming to the point where it cannot be stopped.