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Sunday, April 17, 2011

BBC's Richard Black discusses the European Geosciences Union (EGU) annual meeting in Vienna wrt Greenland's ice sheet's tipping point and Arctic sea ice projections by Wieslaw Maslowski

BBC's Richard Black discusses the European Geosciences Union (EGU) annual meeting  in Vienna

excerpted from Richard Black, BBC News, April 12, 2011

Vienna saw lots of talk about ice, particularly the Arctic kind... and not much of it was optimistic.
We saw new models of how quickly Arctic sea ice will melt, and new attempts to understand key mechanisms affecting the Greenland ice sheet.
You may have read about Wieslaw Maslowski's renewed projections that summers will be free of sea ice within this decade.
Not all modellers agree with that timescale... even so, the fact that it's on the agenda indicates the speed of changes in this most totemic of regions.
I didn't have time to report on the Greenland modelling, but one of the packed presentations I attended saw a study indicating that the ice sheet could well reach a tipping point of melting at a global average temperature rise of only 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) from pre-industrial times.
We are about halfway there already.
I also dipped into sessions on methane releases from around the Arctic.
This is a really tough issue to research, because historical records aren't good.
So when ships monitor methane bubbling up from around Svalbard, for example, and wonder how important it is, there's no database that you can open to compare present day releases against those from half a century ago.
Nevertheless, we heard that the water in some of these locations has warmed by one or two Celsius in the last few decades, and scientists presented simulations indicating how that may be affecting methane emissions.
Hard data appeared in short supply -- for the reasons I've given, plus the fact that this sort of research is hard and expensive.
Polar bear

But I was accosted by one scientist who said his initial calculations indicate methane release could be serious enough to amplify human-induced warming 40-fold.
OK... we're talking here about non-peer-reviewed science, for the most part -- the rituals and rhythms of science mean conference presentations are habitually of non-published material.
Even so, I trust this little tour d'horizon has given you a flavour of discussions and debates at what is a purely scientific gathering, with no politics and very small amounts of hype.

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