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Earth Science

Huge Arctic Ice Shelf Breaks Off 736

knarfling writes "CNN is reporting that a chunk of ice shelf nearly the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada's northern Arctic. Just last month 21 square miles of ice broke free from the Markham Ice Shelf. Scientists are saying that Ellesmere Island has now lost more than 10 times the ice that was predicted earlier this summer. How long before the fabled Northwest Passage is a reality?"
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Huge Arctic Ice Shelf Breaks Off

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  • Artic! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:11PM (#24866633)

    I hope it wasn't abstract artic, or else we're all doomed.

  • by DeathGod321 ( 1126621 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:13PM (#24866651)
    These icy, loveless relationships aren't meant to last. I'm glad that the arctic broke it off.
  • sorry (Score:3, Funny)

    by A little Frenchie ( 715758 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:17PM (#24866677)
    I just wanted an ice cube...
  • From TFA... (Score:3, Informative)

    by capnkr ( 1153623 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:18PM (#24866691)

    Ellesmere Island was once entirely ringed by a single enormous ice shelf that broke up in the early 1900s. All that is left today are the four much smaller shelves that together cover little more than 299 square miles.

    So this is a process that has been going on for ~100 years now? And that means it is indicative of, or news because... ???

    Nothing to see here... (except my dwindling karma... ;) )

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

      And that means it is indicative of, or news because... ???

      It's faster and more extensive than ever before, and faster than expected.

      That's pretty much it.

    • Re:From TFA... (Score:5, Informative)

      by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:29PM (#24866865) Journal
      Looks like you picked an excerpt that, posted out of context as you did, suggests no short term change. But here are the paragraphs that follow (emphasis mine):

      Martin Jeffries of the U.S. National Science Foundation and University of Alaska Fairbanks said in a statement Tuesday that the summer's ice shelf loss is equivalent to over three times the area of Manhattan, totaling 82 square miles -- losses that have reduced Arctic Ocean ice cover to its second-biggest retreat since satellite measurements began 30 years ago.

      "These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present," said Muller.

      During the last century, when ice shelves would break off, thick sea ice would eventually reform in their place.

      "But today, warmer temperatures and a changing climate means there's no hope for regrowth. A scary scenario," said Muller.

    • Re:From TFA... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by knarfling ( 735361 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:31PM (#24866893) Journal

      Because it is not reforming as ice. Over the last 100 years, pieces of the shelf would break off and then other ice would reform and take its place. But over the last few years, ice is breaking off and it is too warm for other ice to form into the shelf.

      One of the effects is that fresh water environments were formed on the shelf. When the shelf breaks off, salt water rushes in and kills all the organisms that grew there. Some haven't been studied well, and the chance to study them has been lost.

      Another affect is more political. If enough ice breaks off, there will be a NorthWest passage where ships can sail around the North of Canada.

      On July 30 of this year, scientists predicted that a chuck of ice would break off. The chunk that actually broke off was 10 times the size predicted. Not sure why the big difference, but that is a bit scary to me. What is it that these scientists missed? Were temperatures warmer than expected? or did they just make a bad judgement with the info they had?

      • Re:From TFA... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joe Snipe ( 224958 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:53PM (#24867171) Homepage Journal

        The chunk that actually broke off was 10 times the size predicted.

        They probably downplayed the size to keep getting their grant monies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rjhubs ( 929158 )
        Why are you so surprised? Have scientists previously shown an ability to accurately predict how much ice will break off? Do we have a long record of ice breaking off the the factors that contributed?

        My guess is, any scientist who tries to predict the outcome of a small event that is influenced by many, many, many large factors will more than likely miss something and be off.

        This is a knock at climate scientists or scientists in general, I'm sure they tried to look at every factor they could think of. B

      • Re:From TFA... (Score:5, Informative)

        by McGiraf ( 196030 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:11PM (#24867933)

        "can sail around the North of Canada."

        nope, they will sail in Canada, not around.

  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:21PM (#24866745) Homepage

    ...are the screams of millions of spelling nazis.

  • Never, hopefully. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jorophose ( 1062218 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:22PM (#24866777)

    The day the NWP is a reality is the last day of Canada as an independant country.

    I'm not ready to give up my home and native land that quick. But how am I to stop US forces, or worse, Russian or even Chinese, should they set their eyes on the NWP?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Brynath ( 522699 )

      All is going according to Alaska's plan:

      1: Join forces with the USA (check)
      2: Wait for NWP to open up (almost there)
      3: Annex Canada!!!

    • Re:Never, hopefully. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jerry Rivers ( 881171 ) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:44PM (#24867699)

      This simply is not so. Have no fear my friend, because the NWP represents enormous value to Canada. Those who want to use it will pay handsomely, and this in turn will pay for Canada's defence of her Northern sovereignty. Those who argue that it is an International waterway will be the first to cry for help from Canada when their oil tanker hits an iceberg, and it will be Canadians who will be left with with another Exxon Valdez disaster. So Canada will mightily defend her territory, and it is in the best interests of the U.S., Russia, China and others that Canada be happy, well paid, and a willing participant in the movement of goods through the North.

      As for the manifest destiny bluster from the South - ignore it. The U.S. has neither the time, massive resources, or manpower to have a prayer of ever annexing Canada. What they gonna do? Put one cop in every town 500 miles apart? They can barely manage tiny Iraq, let alone the second largest country on earth.

  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:24PM (#24866809) Homepage

    How long before the fabled Northwest Passage is a reality?

    From what I read [] the other day, it is open now...

  • by DougF ( 1117261 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:40PM (#24867009)
    From TFA:

    ...we're looking at ecosystems on the verge of distinction.

    I know almost nobody reads TFA, but apparently no one edits them, either.

  • Oil! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:26PM (#24867501)

    "How long before the fabled Northwest Passage is a reality?"

    And when can we start drilling for oil up there?

  • NW passage is open (Score:3, Informative)

    by blamanj ( 253811 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:36PM (#24867621)

    I read about it here [].

  • by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:58PM (#24867833) Journal

    From []:

    In 1969, an American oil company sent an ice-strengthen oil tanker, the SS Manhattan, on a test-voyage through the Northwest Passage. The company, which was cooperating closely with the U.S. government, made a point of not seeking permission from Canada.

    If the US resumes that path, and there's no evidence they will right now, it'll lead to a fundamental change is the perceived "special relationship" between Canada and the US. Americans would be surprised at the change in attitude that would result.

    However, I believe things are quite a bit different now compared to 1969. We have Russia making macho territorial claims all over the place and Canada (plus Denmark) are in the best position to legally defeat those claims, not the US.

    Also, there might be some recognition in Washington that treating the NWP as the high seas could easily result in an environmental mess of biblical proportions because, for example, dumped oily bilge water in the cold Arctic water doesn't disperse like it does in warmer climates. A large oil spill up there would be an unmitigated disaster.

    Finally one would assume the US would like to know, via Canadian tracking of ships in it's territorial waters, who's going where. Canada would have some rights to actually board and inspect ships which is much superior to what the US could find out if the passage was international waters in which case they would be limited to satellite, radar, or airborne tracking.

  • by loud_silence ( 1357095 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:58AM (#24869847)

    When international summit [] after international summit [] after international summit [] all recognize global warming and the human influence how can you still deny it? When from every article [] in a referred scientific journal about climate change from 1993 to 2003, there isn't even ONE that disagrees with the consensus that that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities, how is it not obvious? When even international panels like the InterAcademy Council [] and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [] can agree on the human impact, what "controversy" is there?

    It is so painfully obvious that we do make a difference, that CO2 concentration is much higher than ever seen before, as shown by the Keeling Curve []. And I can only hope most people understand that high CO2 levels lead to high temperatures and I don't have to spell that out.

    It's not a debate. There is no "maybe." There's no confusion. The entire world's academic and scientific community have come to a consensus on it, but apparently some people here just don't get it.

    Its at the point where both U.S. presidential hopefuls have made it both policy and goals to cut down on emissions, its not even politically dividing.

    Global warming is real, it does exist, we do contribute, and if you think otherwise you're honestly in denial.

    • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @03:15AM (#24870531)

      There is still no actual proof of man-made Global Warming over natural climate change.

      There is scientific evidence to suggest that as the climate is (naturally) warming, more CO2 is being released from the seas - if anything, this particular research has been covered up in favour of the politically-motivated idea that man *must* be the cause of Global Warming.

      It has already been shown that Al Gore's graphs presented in "An Inconvenient Truth" were "massaged" by about 60 years and it is taken as irrefutable proof that our planet went through (at least) 4 Ice Ages (i.e. global cooling) long before man was ever on the scene.

      Politically, there is a strong case for promoting MMGW which would stop the development of the Third World, thus ensuring that Third World imports into rich countries remain cheap, thus keeping the populations of the rich countries fat, dumb & happy. And because the Third World countries remain poor, more people live in poverty and die younger from diseases that are curable. In actuality, MMGW is an *anti-Green* viewpoint.

      Oh, and please do not view anyone who is anti-MMGW as being against better recycling or against less reliance on fossil fuels, both of which will help to preserve the planet for future generations. But MMGW strikes me as entirely wasted effort when, in practice, we should be pushing to stabilise the population of our planet by strict birth-control enforcement globally. Do you not find it hypocritical that politicians in rich countries don't push for this? After all, if people who are already in poverty keep having more and more children that they cannot possibly feed, how can they get themselves out of poverty? Or is that what the politicians want because it means the poor can be exploited even more for poor working conditions and poor pay?

      Oh, and whenever these articles get opened up for discussion, why is the fact that ice is getting thicker in many areas of the North and South pole conveniently overlooked?

    • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:10AM (#24872453) Journal

      I wish I lived in such a black-and-white world.

      1) there seems to be ample confusion about the data (for example, there is more arctic ice coverage this year than last), there seem to be different trends in temperature data, and some persuasive discussions about urbanization and data collection. The moment you say 'well, one year's not a trend' you're hurting your own argument - I'd argue in the same vein that climatologically the IPCC measure of 200 years, or 500 years, or even 1000 years is almost meanininglessly small in terms of climate change; the variation we're seeing is far, far below the nearly-random chaos static in the data. The longer-term data we use, the weaker the AGW argument appears to be.
      2) the AGW crowd seem to shift effortlessly between two distinct arguments - AGW is NOT conclusively proven, while there is much more apparent evidence that there is global warming in general (whatever the source). Conflating the two is unhelpful and smells of a weak argument in favor of AGW.
      3) using sea-level rise as one example, there is ABUNDANT evidence that within recent climatological history, the world was substantially warmer, and sea levels were higher; witness medieval towns such as Acre which were bustling ports but now are km inland? To claim today that the impending, alleged rise in sea level (which ranges from a predicted 2cm to a hysterical 2m over the next century, already a sign that the data's hard to read) is 'catastrophic' is just dumb; it's the equivalent of humanity building cities on a tidal flat and then complaining when the tide inevitably rolls back in.
      4) more history - even widely-agreed data ( points to a couple of facts:
      a) that historically the trend varies wildly
      b) that there are small cycles and big cycles
      c) that in the recent history we're actually COOLER than the probable 'earth norm', so warming is more likely than cooling over time
      5) the tendency to simply throw a number of experts at it (as you do - look at all the reports agreeing!) is feeble, without refuting the more commonsense points listed here. I'm no expert, but one can easily download raw icecore data from paleoclimate sites, and plot the numbers on a graph in moments with excel, and see that the results do NOT show a discernable recent warming trend (I did it using Greenland and Alpine core data).

      I recognize that to the AGW proponents, it's just so much simpler to point to the public and whine "But you're all so STUPID! Why can't you SEE it?" Frankly, this sort of petulant insistence is what most of us said about everything when we were teenagers, certain that we knew everything about everything. But people (even non-college-educated people) aren't as stupid as you'd like to think. Certainly, it would be more convenient if we were, we'd just have to 'go along' with the experts. Well, experts have motivations too - and the AGW proponents shifty tactics of attacking anyone who even slightly disagrees (his wife's brother's girlfriend's cousin works for EXXON!!) likewise suggests to an objective observer that the argument isn't so much about fact as about politics, philosophy, and quasi-religion.

      Aside from this, there's the 'cry wolf' phenomenon. Most of us in our forties have heard our ENTIRE lives about how and why the world is in imminent danger of disaster: we're going to run out of food, fresh water, land, oil, landfills, animals, oceans; how the climate is going to be too cold, too hot; how DDT is thinning eggshells, how nuclear power is going to kill us all, etc, etc, etc. Already, "global warming" has become "global climate change" based on the numerous refutations of specific 'facts' of global warming (doubt it? Count how many times an Inconvenient Truth mentions Global WARMING vs. how many times Mr. Gore mentions global CLIMATE CHANGE...), which itself is a darn convenient switch - now any weather event can handily be twisted to 'show' what you want....

      While it's obviously true that eventually a cry o

    • by Garwulf ( 708651 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:41AM (#24872753) Homepage

      "When international summit [] after international summit [] after international summit [] all recognize global warming and the human influence how can you still deny it? When from every article [] in a referred scientific journal about climate change from 1993 to 2003, there isn't even ONE that disagrees with the consensus that that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities, how is it not obvious? When even international panels like the InterAcademy Council [] and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [] can agree on the human impact, what "controversy" is there?"

      Because the statement of a scientific consensus is, among other things, propaganda. And furthermore, a number of climatologists have been caught making specious claims for what appears to be publicity's sake. The findings of the IPCC have also been called into question, in peer-reviewed journals.

      So, let's go through some of the list here...

      First, the "hockey stick" graph was discredited a few years ago when two Canadian mathematicians tried to reproduce it, and found that the data used had been cherry picked - only the lowest data points were used for the Medieval Warm Period, and only the highest data points were used for the 1980s onwards. For more information, see []

      That, however, is nothing compared to how the "hockey stick" got into the 2007 IPCC report. That verged on fraud: []

      The IPCC report itself was based on faulty mathematics. Christopher Monckton, a physicist, decided to examine the climate model used for the 2007 IPCC report, and found that the math was wrong, and that the impact of CO2 on climate had been overstated by anywhere from 500-2000%: []

      Looking away from the science for a moment, why is it that Al Gore got a Nobel peace prize for a documentary that either misled or got a large part of its science wrong ( [] )? Why is it that the skeptics who point at the problems with climate science suffer from ad hominem attacks, while the skeptics themselves are just looking at the science? Shouldn't the argument be in regards to the data - and for that matter, isn't the ad hominem attack usually used by the person whose argument is weakest?

      The climate is changing - it always has been. In fact, the last eight years have been very abnormal due to the fact that the overall surface temperature of the Earth hasn't actually changed during them (the only measurement station noting an increase in temperature is from NASA, which relies on ground based thermometers which have been overrun by urban centers, which raises the local temperature anyway - sorry, but I don't have the link for this data on hand and I'm running out of time, so you'll have to google for this information yourself). And while CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it is a very minor one. Climate-wise, we have been on an upswing for some time. But how much of that is our fault?

      I don't know. But so long as the "science" that is being spouted on this is based on discredited graphs, cherry-picked data, and faulty mathematics, I don't think I'm going to find out any time soon. This "scientific consensus" is propaganda double-speak, and what's needed is honest science where theory is based on data, and not the other way around.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury