Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Albedo change in the Arctic threatens to cause runaway global warming

Mark Flanner et al. calculated in 2011 that snow and ice on the Northern Hemisphere had a combined cooling effect of 3.3 Watts per square meter (of which 2 W/sm relates to the snow cover on land and 1.3 W/sm to the sea ice).

This cooling effect is deminishing rapidly, as temperatures rise and snow and ice cover declines. Snow and ice on the Northern Hemisphere had already declined substantially over the years and was reflecting 0.45 watts less energy per square meter in 2011 than it did in 1979 (Flanner, 2011).

As discussed in Albedo change in the Arctic, Professor Peter Wadhams calculates that the loss of the Arctic sea ice cooling effect alone can be compared to the net global warming caused by people's emissions (1.66 W/sm, IPCC, 2007b).
From: sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/piomas

The exponential trends added by Wipneus to PIOMAS Arctic sea ice volume data show that the Arctic Ocean looks set to be ice-free from 2015 onwards for the period from August through to October, while July and November look set to follow from 2017, respectively 2018 onwards with June following closely thereafter. In other words, we could soon face an Arctic Ocean that is ice-free for half the year.

Snow cover on land takes up an even larger area than sea ice. The chart below illustrates the decline of snow cover on land in the Northern Hemisphere (without Greenland) for the month June.

What trends could fit these data? On the image below, I've added trendlines and I encourage others to come up with better ones.

Clearly, a lot of snow and ice looks set to disappear over the next few years. Note that what happens in winter doesn't matter as much, as little sunlight reaches the Arctic in winter. What matters most is how much sunlight is reflected when insolation in the Arctic is high. Insolation during the months June and July is higher in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth, as shown on the image below, by Pidwirny (2006).

While Greenland remains extensively covered with snow and ice, the reflectivity of its cover shows rapid decline, as illustrated by the image below. The July data since 2000, from the meltfactor blog with projection in red added by Sam Carana, suggest a exponential fall in reflectivity that looks set to go into freefall next year.
From: Greenland is melting at incredible rate

Albedo: wikipedia.org/wiki/Albedo

A drop of as little as 1% in Earth’s albedo corresponds with a warming roughly equal to the effect of doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would cause Earth to retain an additional 3.4 watts of energy for every square meter of surface area (NASA, 2005; Flanner et al., 2011).

Combined, the snow line retreat, loss of sea ice and decline of Greenland's reflectivity constitute a huge loss of summer cooling in the Arctic.

As a result, summer temperatures in the Arctic look set to rise rapidly over the next few years, threatening to unleash massive amounts of methane from sediments below shallow waters of the Arctic Ocean, spiraling Earth into runaway global warming.

If you are also concerned about this development, please share the image below at Facebook, with a link to this post.

- Albedo - Wikipedia

- Albedo change in the Arctic

- Flanner et al. (2011), Radiative forcing and albedo feedback from the Northern Hemisphere cryosphere between 1979 and 2008.

- Flanner et al. (2011), Presentation October 27, 2011, WCRP Open Science Conference

- Greenland is melting at incredible rate

- NASA, 2005 (at Archive.org)

Pidwirny, M. (2006). "Earth-Sun Relationships and Insolation". Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition

- PIOMAS monthly average sea ice volume, with exponential trends added

- Snow Climate Lab, Rutgers University


  1. Physically Earth looks locked into slide to Quantum up or shift from former biological open nature's hold.
    The Earth without life will not have freeze pt of H20 and of transition to water vapor as buffer to keep wild flux of high temps from sweeping sands..
    It is still my contention mankind w special kind agent can and must use full force of human enterprise to disable present courage of oil users and denier
    Denier of truth and of justice and of hope for fun. This is a worthy project to act catalytic.
    This is not magic or some grand religious plot.
    (At bottom of page here if one zooms down is info)
    There is plot of Earth temp increase in Blue for more than a century showing gradual rise..
    There is plot of Arctic Heat rise since 1960..
    Arctic is heating up in an acceleration fast.
    This was not mentioned during debate for Pres.
    It is not on main screen of world thought now.
    Economical way to achieve prosperity is obvious.
    Take on the task of keeping Earth alive bravely.

  2. Radiant heat both Sky and Storm of our own making on the rise is hard to recognize when it is all around us, omnipresent and years in the making, but we who live today at the moment have a need and duty to see and act bravely as adults and see.
    See if We can lop off this perfect storm brewing before it breaks all around us and destroys Earth's life creation.. It can be headed off before it is too late, at least giving it a try would be fun and cool try. Game on 2C..
    -At present several things are happening. The high court o US backed money ownership.
    The rigged system of money exploits all it gets near it seems and is radiant.
    It is ever present pressure to transition what should be naturally Earth's birthright.
    AT the same time atmosphere just got sustained shot of CH4 increase in Arctic at New Year 2013 that occurred on edge of plate tectonic shelve indicating by 20C heat gain on 7th January by swath of heat cast down from above. Latitude approx 80N centered initially Svalbard to Norway and spread.
    CH4 only really started diverging upward radically in Arctic in sustained way in 2007 but now that appears to have gone near touch off of full blown abrupt release of the proverbial first billion tonnes injection and the sustained belching of runaway to follow..
    Each of us has a duty to expose lies of exploitation all around us omnipresent.
    If as though using instruments on glider to find thermal and fly long and safely.. And not least important, to have fun and live to see kids do well..