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World's Northernmost Community Hits Highest Temps Ever Recorded (Svalbard)

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 09:09 PM
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World's Northernmost Community Hits Highest Temps Ever Recorded (Svalbard)
These are unusual times for Ny-Alesund, the world's most northerly community. Perched high above the Arctic Circle, on Svalbard, normally a place gripped by shrieking winds and blizzards, it was caught in a heatwave a few days ago. Temperatures soared to the highest ever recorded here, an extraordinary 19.6?C, a full degree-and-a-half above the previous record. Researchers lolled in T-shirts and soaked up the sun: a high life in the high Arctic.

It was an extraordinary vision, for this huddle of multi-colored wooden huts -- a community of different Arctic stations run by various countries and perched at the edge of a remote, glacier-rimmed fjord -- is only 966km from the North Pole. That they could bask in the sun merely confirms what these scientists have long suspected: that Earth's high latitudes are warming dangerously thanks to man-made climate change, with temperatures rising at twice the global average. Clearly, Ny-Alesund has much to tell us.

For a start, this bleakly beautiful landscape is changing. Twenty years ago, giant icy fingers of glaciers spread across its fjords, including the Kungsfjorden where Ny-Alesund is perched. "When I first came here, 20 years ago, the Kronebreen and Kongsvegen glaciers swept round either side of the Colletthogda peak at the end of the fjord," said Nick Cox, who runs the UK's Arctic Research Station, one of several different national outposts at Ny-Alesund. 'Today they have retreated so far the peak will soon become completely isolated from ice. Similarly, the Blomstrand peninsula opposite us is now an island. Not long ago a glacier used to link it with coastline.'

You get a measure of these changes from the old pictures in Ny-Alesund's tiny museum, dedicated to the miners who first created this little community and dug in blizzards, winters of total darkness and bitter cold until 1962, when explosions wrecked the mine, killing 22 people. The landscape then was filled with bloated glaciers. Today they look stunted and puny.

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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 06:36 AM
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1. It was in the 90s (Farenheit) last week in Nunavut
The Arctic is heating up. After all, as warmer air rises, it has to go someplace. So it goes where the warmer water vapor is condensing out of the air -- the Arctic (and Antarctic) zones.

The warm air sinks, raises the temperature at the poles, driving an increasingly radical change in weather patterns. A massive global "temperature inversion", if you will.

Of course, it's only a theory ...

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suneel112 Donating Member (89 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. On convection...
Convection is definitely a proven fact. Convection transports 4 petawatts (4 quadrillion watts, or joules per second) of heat energy from the equator to the poles, in the forms of wind and oceanic currents. At the equator, hot, moist air rises and cools as it rises to high altitudes. There, it releases moisture as precipitation and causes low pressure (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, ITCZ, or "The Doldrums"). This high precipitation breeds the world's rainforests. It also travels north. At 30 degrees latitude, the air falls, causing high pressure and arid to semi-arid conditions. The air falls, and spreads out over land or water, and picks up moisture. It diverges, either going back to the equator (the Trade Winds, going east to west) and completing one loop, or heading to 60 degrees latitude (the Westerlies, going west to east), where the air rises again and dumps its moisture in another convergence zone. That is where the westerlies meet the polar easterlies and cause the same low pressure, high moisture (although lower temperature) zones as the tropics. That is also where the boreal forests of the world are: Russia, Canada, New York, Minnesota, and Michigan (thanks to the jet stream). Finally, there is the polar divergence zone, which creates the tundra (very cold deserts).

Normally, a good part of solar energy is radiated back into space. Global warming means less energy is radiated, therefore more energy is transported through the convection system. Higher temperatures (since more heat can be transported), but most gains will be concentrated near the convergence zones (Alaska is around 60 degrees, the boreal forest convergence zone), give or take because of jet streams, etc... The convergence zones will also get more moisture (floods), while the divergence zones (30 deg latitude and the icecaps) will either get less or just a little bit more.

Storms will also grow stronger, since all storms are heat engines. Put in more heat energy, and the storms will get stronger. That is, unless humans start using the excess heat, which, if converted to electricity at even half efficiency, will be more than the world will ever need.
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-22-05 12:34 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. My "Zone of Storms" idea
It's actually a semi-educated guess.

I "predict" that once the northern branches of the Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation "fail", there will be gross changes in the air systems of the northern hemisphere. A huge volume of heated warm air will build up and pool in the polar regions, perhaps surpassing the tropics in summertime heating (all the more possible due to the longer polar summer days). This will lead to a "Zone of Storms", initially at low polar latitudes and during the early winter, but eventually moving lower (to about 40-60N) and becoming a year-round phenomenon. It will be the driving force behind northern continental ice pack accumulation as it "discharges" accumulated heat and water vapor.

At lower latitudes, the heat will dessicate agricultural areas; and little agriculture will be possible in the areas that are perpetually flooded and/or frozen. If we still have enough petroleum-derived fertilizer for high-yield crops, this will cause massive famine on its own.

Of course, if we run out of fertilizer first, it will be a moot point.

I am convinced that this has already started. The temperature-regulating currents in the North Sea have already been observed as failing for the last few, which started at about the same time as the deadly-hot European summers (2001 IIRC). Last year, several of the smaller currents just were not present at all.

In addition, atmospheric dessication is starting, and the decades-long increase in cloud cover reversed itself over the past five years. The water is probably being carried higher into the troposphere, and if anyone looks, I suspect they will find robust high-altitude poleward pseudo-jet-streams getting started.

Northern Polar summertime temperatures have been abnormally high since the late 1990s, and a similar phenomenon is happening in Antarctica, with increased precipitation at the pole, and record melting along the coasts and ice sheves.

This winter may or may not be bad, but with the mechanisms in place, it's only a matter of a few years before weather patterns establish themselves to allow this excess moisture to precipitate out of the atmosphere. The more heat, the more intense the subsequent precipitation and the more driven the storms.

This period will either last as long as a little ice age would (100 to 2000 years) or a couple of millenia, if this is the start of a "true" or major ice age, like the last one, the 100,000-year-long Wisconsonian/Wrm glaciation.

It's only a guess, and a wild-assed one at that. I do not forsee a whole lot of climatic effects worth celebrating. But at least I have a lot of company, even if they are not as quick to risk their scientific reputations as I am.

Of course, it helps to not have a scientific reputation to risk!

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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-22-05 09:39 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. No, dear, convection is "only a theory"
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