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Formerly Classified Global Warming Spy Photos Released 791

Posted by kdawson
from the inconvenient-images dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Obama administration has released more than a thousand intelligence images of Arctic ice, following a declassification request by the National Academy of Sciences. The images feature a 1m resolution, and scientists who have had to base climate models on 15m- or 30m-resolution photos are rejoicing. The photos, kept classified by the Bush administration, show the impact of global warming in the Arctic and the retreat of glaciers in Washington and Alaska."
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Formerly Classified Global Warming Spy Photos Released

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  • by Anonymous CowHardon (1605679) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:28PM (#28847245)
    At least we're winning the battle against something!
    • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:32PM (#28847275)
      I never liked them much anyway. So cold and impersonal . . .
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:52AM (#28848721) Journal

        Let us just hope that thses guys [74.125.95.132] aren't right, or we are wasting billions on nothing. Sorry about the cache link, but the site appears to be down ATM. For those that don't like to RTFL, it is a new study that looks at temp data from 58-08 and says that a full 80% of the changes in temp is NOT man made, but rather the result of natural environmental cycles, similar to how Greenland was upon a time was warm enough to be farm land.

        I'm not saying I believe one way or another, not that it matters when there is so much money to be made on scams like "carbon credits" but you do have to admit it would suck to blow all the billions and trillions of dollars only to find out there ain't a damned thing you can do, it is just good old mama nature screwing with us.

        • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:28AM (#28848921)

          admit it would suck to blow all the billions and trillions of dollars only to find out there ain't a damned thing you can do

          There are many reasons to migrate from fossil fuels, the most compelling being that they're going to run out very soon. The changing climate is also a worry (which we wouldn't want to encourage to change faster than it already is), but it's not the only reason, and the money spent on migrating to alternative energy sources certainly wouldn't be wasted.

          • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @06:54AM (#28849635) Homepage Journal

            There are many reasons to migrate from fossil fuels, the most compelling being that they're going to run out very soon. The changing climate is also a worry (which we wouldn't want to encourage to change faster than it already is), but it's not the only reason, and the money spent on migrating to alternative energy sources certainly wouldn't be wasted.

            Well, the question is, does the increased fuel efficiency actually pay for itself? The thing is, the more efficient you are, the more complex you are. The more complex you are, the more you cost. This relationship between efficiency and cost is exponential due to increased complexity efficiency demands. I put together a simple JavaScript model of this at http://www.treatyist.com/issue1/savetheearth.aspx [treatyist.com] . Basically, by jiggering the predicted cost of fuel (using gasoline as a baseline), versus, the exponent of increased energy efficiency costs, you can arrive at a number of scenarios where reducing greenhouse gasses actually doesn't pay for itself. If it pays anyone, it also pays the Chinese and the Europeans..

            In any case, most models show that even a rather dramatic altering of CO2 emissions will not alter the course of climate change for a minimum of 200 years. Even if we stopped now, the glaciers are still going to melt. The CO2 is already in the air.

            • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @07:20AM (#28849785) Homepage

              And as computers have increased in complexity from the models in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, so too have they increased in cost and size, right?

              New technology is expensive, and it's difficult to find a cost effectiveness sweet spot. As new technology matures it becomes old technology, and old technology becomes increasingly inexpensive as time goes on. We find new, better, more efficient ways to manufacture the same device, and as it matures its cost efficacy also increases.

              This is why radical shifts in technology are rare; it's unusual for dramatically new tech to be obviously superior to the old tech when it's still in its infancy. And so from this perspective when the required shift is not dictated by financial forces but some other force, financial reasons are not going to be one of the early motivating factors for the change.

              • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @09:16AM (#28850745) Homepage Journal

                And as computers have increased in complexity from the models in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, so too have they increased in cost and size, right?

                The capital required to make them, has, yes, most certainly. It's only because there are a lot more customers do we have the illusion of lower prices. But right now it costs billions of dollars to bring a CPU to market, and it didn't cost nearly that before. Before there were many players because the barriers to entry were not so high, but now, there are few. You even see this in software. How many operating systems were there twenty years ago? How many today? IT's the capital costs get higher and higher.

            • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:54AM (#28850501)

              Well, the question is, does the increased fuel efficiency actually pay for itself?

              Actually, no, that's not the question at all. The question is what are you going to do when oil is permanently above 100USD a barrel and climbing, or worse, constantly volatile? What are you going to do in 50 years when the supply of oil is tightly constrained and wars are being fought over supplies? We've had an easy ride so far due to fossil fuels just lying around with a lot of stored energy which is easy to release, but that's not going to last forever, and even if it were we'd be creating massive pollution problems (see China and India currently) if we stuck to things like coal power plants long term, quite apart from climate impacts.

              The thing is, the more efficient you are, the more complex you are. The more complex you are, the more you cost.

              I'm afraid you've just made this connection up. What examples make you feel this three-way relation is universally true as you assert?

              Many things are complex and yet inefficient, and vice versa. To pick an example from power generation - photovoltaic cells are at present complex, and yet inefficient, whereas solar water heating is very simple (tube with water/salt mixture in it), and very efficient. Modern computers are more complex and efficient than the space shuttle ones, and yet cost less. etc. etc.

              Just because new tech tends to be complex and costly does not mean it will always be so, and there is no overall 'law' which states that efficiency == complexity == cost, and your statistics are meaningless as they are predicated on this assumption.

              Even if we stopped now, the glaciers are still going to melt.

              We don't actually know with any certainty what's going to happen, save that it probably won't be pretty. We also know the different of a few degrees rise in temperature could mean metres in sea levels, and we have an awful lot of useful coastal land that would put underwater. As I have pointed out, there are many other reasons to stop using dirty fuels like coal anyway, quite apart from greenhouse gases and climate change. It might cost a little more in the short term, but in the long term it makes a lot of sense to diversify sources of energy and use ones with the least environmental impact.

          • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:19AM (#28850157) Journal

            Well, which is it, are fossil fuels going to run out soon, and therefore aren't actually present in sufficient quantities to present much of a threat, or is there way too much carbon locked in fossil fuels for our continued health, and we should get off them before we exhaust the supply?

        • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:33AM (#28848937)

          And the reason that water pipe seems to be leaking is almost certainly just natural wear and tear, the building has had water leaks in the past, I mean we shouldn't even stop hitting it with that hammer, it's not like we're making any kind of differ-FWOOOOSH!

  • by NoName Studios (917186) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:46PM (#28847375) Homepage

    Since the summary and article do not mention it, 1m resolution = One Meter Per Pixel.

    I had to research that to figure out why a one megapixel resolution was some how magically better than thirty megapixels.

  • So uh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by acehole (174372) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:47PM (#28847389) Homepage

    Why was a spy satellite taking snaps of the ice classified? The ice launching an incursion into US territory? Are they afraid the terrible secret of ice will be revealed?

    • Re:So uh... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Danny Rathjens (8471) <slashdot2NO@SPAMrathjens.org> on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:57PM (#28847447)
      My guess is some blanket policy against high resolution spy satellite photos of anything. Also, the arctic actually is currently a relatively hotly disputed area amongst the countries that border it due to the wealth of natural resources. Russia especially has made recent claims of more of a pie slice than what the other neighbors tended to agree with based on some underwater structures they explored.
      I'm certainly no fan of Bush and did not vote for him but I'm doubtful that this was some kind of cover up against global warming.
    • Re:So uh... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @12:09AM (#28847535) Homepage Journal

      Why was a spy satellite taking snaps of the ice classified?

      They'd tell you, but then they'd have to kill you.
           

    • Re:So uh... (Score:5, Funny)

      by WoodenTable (1434059) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @12:44AM (#28847725)

      It has nothing to do with the ice, really. It's all about where much of the ice is; specifically, a great deal of it is located in a little-known nation just north of America. The American public is largely unaware of it, and knowledge of its existence could shock them to their very cores, should it come out. The only reasonable response is a blanket of secrecy.

      This also explains a great deal about Alaskans. Since this "shadow nation" is located east of Alaska, not north, they have a different view of it compared to the other states. And it has changed them.

    • Re:So uh... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tsotha (720379) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:27AM (#28848311)

      High resolution satellite photos are classified because the resolution itself is classified. We don't want potential subjects to use photos of innocuous landscape to determine what features the camera is capable of resolving, because that has a lot of implications when you're trying to build decoys or hide troop movements. These particular images have probably been declassified because 1 meter is no longer something anybody is going to get excited over. These days you can buy commercial black-and-white imagery with that resolution.

      What's cutting edge on the military side? I dunno. It's almost certainly classified.

  • Not impressed... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by supercell (1148577) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:58PM (#28847465)
    I thought I was going to see a significant movement in the ice sheets, on the order of 10's or 100's of miles. From what I saw, the rate of decline was statistically meaningless, measured in mere feet. My guess is the previous administration was more concerned with releasing something that would show or capabilities of our spy satellites and not trying to conceal this.
  • Look carefully (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @01:29AM (#28847999) Journal

    You're told secret data has been wrestled from the grasp of the corporates and you're given a link. The page presents a pair of images right at the top, unavoidable; seen before anything is even read. Two images; one of vast quantities of ice, the second utterly free of ice. Global Warming has been implicated before you've read word number one.

    If you look carefully you might notice one end of a landing strip just inland in both photos. These photos cover very small areas; only a few miles. The caption reads:

    Sea ice forms along the coast in the winter, and generally melts or breaks away by mid July. Observations of sea ice position reveal considerable year-to-year variability. Changes in the timing of coastal sea ice breakup and in the location of offshore sea ice have significant local impacts: ecological, biological, and human. This image series portrays changes in the timing of coastal sea ice breakup, and gives information on smaller scale properties of ice. This information recorded over long periods, is required to understand and model the dynamics of sea ice and how changes or trends develop and influence other systems.

    In other words these photos are 'evidence' of nothing. Minor, small scale year-to-year variation in ice flow patterns. The use of these photos in this manner is equivalent to claiming that because there was snow on my walk on January 10, 2008, but none on January 10, 2009, my environment has been ruined by Global Warming.

    Yet there it is, fed to the reader at the very start of the story; no disclaimer provided. The pair of photos will now be repeated ad nauseam for years on end around the planet. Biden will have a blown up poster of these photos in his town hall kit by Wednesday. Fresh new memes the huckster elite will use goad "The West" into self inflicted poverty; "See? The planet is in peril! Man must be stopped!"

    Here is a recent and well researched report [scienceand...policy.org] on the $79 billion that has been spent by the US government (only) on climate research over the last 20 years. 19 pages and 52 citations. I dare you to read it. Global Warming advocates are not the underdogs. They rule vast quantities of public money.

    In almost all other matters you can take it as a given that around Slashdot you will find if not cynics then certainly skeptics. On the other hand if it has a Bush taint, a little anti-business flavor and it's wrapped up in a Global Warming ribbon you people suck it up like hicks at a Benny Hinn sermon.

    • Re:Look carefully (Score:4, Interesting)

      by spinlight (1152137) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:00AM (#28848185)

      In other words these photos are 'evidence' of nothing. Minor, small scale year-to-year variation in ice flow patterns. The use of these photos in this manner is equivalent to claiming that because there was snow on my walk on January 10, 2008, but none on January 10, 2009, my environment has been ruined by Global Warming.

      Yet there it is, fed to the reader at the very start of the story; no disclaimer provided. The pair of photos will now be repeated ad nauseam for years on end around the planet. Biden will have a blown up poster of these photos in his town hall kit by Wednesday. Fresh new memes the huckster elite will use goad "The West" into self inflicted poverty; "See? The planet is in peril! Man must be stopped!"

      In almost all other matters you can take it as a given that around Slashdot you will find if not cynics then certainly skeptics. On the other hand if it has a Bush taint, a little anti-business flavor and it's wrapped up in a Global Warming ribbon you people suck it up like hicks at a Benny Hinn sermon.

      You totally summed up what I took away from this article. The picture of the OMG Polar Bear on the tiny little iceberg was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the photos.
      The self inflicted poverty thing, though, that blew my mind. I had never thought of that before.
      My first response to this article got modded 'flamebait' so fast I was honestly totally surprised. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has noticed a recent change in tone around here.

      Last year, I had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture from one of my chemistry profs where he talked about some of the misinformation surrounding Global Climate Change. What struck me was when he started taking questions at the end and a kid stood up and said, "Global Warming is the only thing that everyone in the world can rally behind. It's a cause that unites everyone! Why would you want to take that away from us?!".

      It was in this moment that I realized why Global Climate Change is so high on so many politicians' agendas: Global Climate Change is the new Religion. It's the one thing that you can get a whole new generation of positive-minded, well-intentioned people to get behind, if you can just convince them that they are all burdened under the Original Sin committed by their predecessors. The new agenda is to convince them that it is their responsibility to Redeem themselves through personal sacrifice.

      Because that kid totally nailed it: They need this. They want this. They are dying for something to rally behind and GCC fits the bill, and what right do YOU have to take it from them?

      It's the same old game with new players.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098)

        Yes, some people take it as a religion. But to argue that this is so for everyone.... sigh. You do cherry pick just as much as the ones you accuse of cherry picking.

    • Re:Look carefully (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:09AM (#28848221)

      Here is a recent and well researched report [scienceand...policy.org] on the $79 billion that has been spent by the US government (only) on climate research over the last 20 years.

      Interesting. It mentions that ~$4 billion per year that goes into producing scientific papers that indicate that global warming is happening, but it doesn't mention anything about the trillions of dollars involved in the fossil fuel industry. The institute that put out that paper - where does it get its funding?

    • Re:Look carefully (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cryptoluddite (658517) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:32AM (#28848343)

      In other words these photos are 'evidence' of nothing. Minor, small scale year-to-year variation in ice flow patterns.

      In other words, these photos are circumstantial evidence. By themselves, they prove nothing. But when you combine them with the hundreds of thousands of other 'small scale' pictures showing retreating ice and weight them side by side with the far fewer images of advancing ice you get a clear pictures. It's still not 'proof' in a rigorous scientific sense, but it's far more than enough to hang a man.

      What you seem not to understand in your rant is that these pictures are not 'evidence' and they are not misrepresenting what is going on with the planet. They are just representative samples to give a face to it. You can't show a close up of every location on the planet in a single page.

      The climate is seriously fucked up, and we did it. That's a fact. Get over it. Or repent, if that's your thing. Waiting for the sea levels to rise so much that it's plainly obvious, then blaming everybody else for 'not doing anything about it' might make one feel better, but it doesn't do jack to help solve the problem.

      In almost all other matters you can take it as a given that around Slashdot you will find if not cynics then certainly skeptics. On the other hand if it has a Bush taint, a little anti-business flavor and it's wrapped up in a Global Warming ribbon you people suck it up like hicks at a Benny Hinn sermon.

      Not really. Mostly it is driven by intelligence and facts. It just so happens that reality has a liberal bias, after all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mako1138 (837520)

      Interesting report, though the spin is strong with this one. I was a bit surprised at that $79 billion number. Looking at the source material, though, it's not that shocking. The figure includes all expenditure related to climate change, which casts a pretty wide net: DOE, NASA, NSF, USAID, Commerce, EPA, Agriculture, HHS, Treasury, DoD, Interior, Transportation, State, Smithsonian, HUD, Trade.

      I find it more interesting that despite all the obvious signs that the Bush administration was anti-science, the cl

  • by WaxParadigm (311909) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @01:59AM (#28848181)

    This is a great example of sensationalized cherry-picked anecdotal evidence...which in reality means nothing. The picture showing ice was taken during an abnormal year. The ice melts away every year, usually in July. It took longer to melt in 2006 thanks in part to their being more than normal amounts of "multi-year" ice shoved down from the arctic that year.

    Article (from AP): http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/372343/arctic_ocean_ice_crashes_on_alaska_shores/ [redorbit.com]
    Video (from NASA): http://www.nasaimages.org/luna/servlet/detail/nasaNAS~10~10~71195~176482:Ice-Surge-in-Barrow,-Alaska [nasaimages.org]

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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