Thursday, April 09, 2009

George Will: Full of Hot Air

Here's a news flash for George F. Will: Warmer temperatures have been scientifically shown to cause ice to melt.

The conservative columnist recently wrote a column in which he said that Arctic sea ice was at levels equal to the levels seen in 1979. As proof, he cited a study from the University of Illinois. This touched off no small firestorm of controversy among Washington Post readers. The issue was addressed by the paper's ombudsman, who found that the paper's editors had been negligent in their fact checking. Even a scientist at the University of Illinois said that no one from either the paper or Will's staff had contacted them. The bottom line was that Will's interpretation of the study was--to put it politely--flawed. Andrew Freedman, who writes a weather blog, has a pretty good summary of the entire controversy.

To further demonstrate that Will is incredibly selective about his facts, new satellite data shows that Arctic sea ice is continuing to shrink and become thinner. Most alarming, it also shows that ice older than two years--the stuff that doesn't melt during the summer--is at its lowest level on record.

The good news is that the scientists who just a few years ago had said the Arctic would be ice free by 2050 were wrong. The bad news is that they now think that may happen as early as the summer of 2015.

The problem with an ice free north pole--aside from the implications for wildlife in the region--is that open water absorbs much more heat than white ice, which reflects solar radiation. That will only serve to further accelerate global warming. An ice free Arctic may also have unknown effects on worldwide ocean currents, which in turn govern much of our planet's overall climate.

George Will is 68 years old, so chances are good that he'll be gone by the time our world turns to shit. But for those of us who are younger, and especially for our children, the actual scientific data is clearly something to be very, VERY concerned about.

0 thoughtful ramblings: