starving walruses

The Inuit, the natives of high northern latitudes, have noticed climate change for years, and it is only getting worse [LINK]. A lot of popular press have mentioned that "experts" and/or "scientists" think the polar region will feel climate change first and worst. This seems to be an accurate statement, based on current understanding of global warming scenarios. The effect is usually described as polar amplification, conveniently described by a recent RealClimate.org column [LINK]. Most of the time people like to talk about the ice-albedo feedback to support polar amplification. That is basically the idea that the change in atmospheric composition leads to warmer surface conditions, which melts snow or sea-ice, which decreases the albedo (reflectance) and leads to more warming. This can be coupled with myriad other positive feedbacks to get a larger effect. There are also dynamic arguments that the circulation (polar vortices, e.g.) are changing in response to warming. Michael Winton (GFDL/NOAA) seems to think the models say the change in clouds and water vapor are at least as important as surface effects [PDF]. I like to think about it the other way around, that is, the atmosphere warms, but the tropics don't warm as much as they "should," which forces more energy to higher latitudes by various heat transports. The increase in poleward heat transport is manifest by larger outgoing longwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere and higher temperatures to provide that radiation. I'll have to look more deeply into the literature to see if my view is at odds with the accepted ways of looking at polar amplification, but I think it should be pretty much the same. They describe the processes that result from increased poleward heat transport (like more precipitation at high latitudes leading to more melting of snow and ice, and definitely more eddy energy (storms) moving tropospheric moisture poleward from the tropics and subtropics).

SSRD supplied the first WaPo article linked above, and set me off on this tangential discussion of poleward heat transport... thanks SSRD.


Un-installing Norton anti-environment

Hee hee.... that's a good headline, IMHO.

Anyway, Gale Norton resigned, and I thought it should be publicized: [LINK]

One more week, ten fewer species

This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to do the Timothy Treadwell thing, i.e., escape into the wilderness and turn semi-feral. Of course, Treadwell was a narcissistic nutball; I just mean that human society has some issues, actually similar issues to Treadwell.... hmmm...

Anyway, today's link is to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a pro-environmental organization of actual scientists who issue opinions about policy-related environmental issues. I don't alway agree with them, especially over the use of nuclear energy, but today they are rallying scientists and other citizens to stand up for the Endangered Species Act: [LINK]. The House has already taken steps to undermine the ESA, so the Senate needs to be heavily lobbied on this matter before they doom hundreds of species in the name of the all-mighty dollar.