Arctic Ice Melt could cost 24 trillion by 2050

Bumped and promoted. Posted 2010-02-06 05:52:18 -0500. -- GH

Arctic ice melt could cost $24tln by 2050: report

Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $US2.4 trillion ($2.8 billion) to $US24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released on Friday.

The research project involved more than 370 scientists from 27 countries who collectively spent 15 months, starting in June 2007, aboard a research vessel above the Arctic Circle. It marked the first time a ship has stayed mobile in Canada's high Arctic for an entire winter.

"It's happening much faster than our most pessimistic projections," said University of Manitoba Prof. David Barber, the lead investigator of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead study. A flaw lead is the term for open water between pack ice and coastal ice.

"There are more storms now because there's more open oceans and those storms are having a dramatic impact on the sea ice," said Barber.

The storms drop precipitation, mostly snow, on the sea ice and the snow insulates the ice, keeping it from growing thicker.

Barber compared the impact of losing sea ice in the Arctic to the loss of trees in a tropical rain forest.

The Arctic sea ice isn't just a cap on top of the ocean, Barber said. "The sea ice breathes," he said. "It pumps carbon dioxide in and out."

There are also a number of unknowns including:

Just how ocean currents will shift as Earth warms.

How much additional warming of the air may result as giant but unseen natural stores of methane in the frigid seabed's begin to bubble out as warming currents thaw them.

How the complex yearly give-and-take cycles of carbon dioxide (CO2) by Arctic plants and animals -- as they breathe in and out -- will alter as average global temperature rises.

In addition, as we've been hearing for some years now, studies have shown the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, further complicating the calculating.

Melting of Arctic sea ice is already triggering a feedback of more warming as dark water revealed by the receding ice absorbs more of the sun's energy, he said. That could lead to more melting of glaciers on land and raise global sea levels.

Whilst I was reading Fish out of Water's diary the other day, he posted this heat content anomaly graph reminded me to look at the amount of energy it takes to melt ice to water.

Citation: Murphy, D. M., S. Solomon, R. W. Portmann, K. H. Rosenlof, P. M. Forster, and T. Wong (2009), An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D17107, doi:10.1029/2009JD012105.

According to this physics site it takes 80 calories of energy (in the form of heat) per gram of ice to phase shift to water.

However it only takes 100 calories per gram for that now melted water to reach boiling temperature of 100 degrees celsius.

With the feedback loops of Methane being released by melting undersea ice, loss of the ability of the ice to reflect the sun, and the energy already absorbed and present in the water, once again, I would expect these figures above as was the estimates of speed of melt, to be grossly understated.

Which is why I cannot understand people like Australia's coalition party and America's GOP pretending that they are doing anything but ensuring our demise by playing obstructionist politics, particularly around this now observed impact of climate change.

Every young person, in fact any person who believes our youth deserve a chance at any sort of life, needs to get motivated and demand action on this, if it is not too late already.

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