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[greenyes] Global Warming from the Wall Street Journal
According to the Science Journal by Sharon Begley in the 3/7/03 Wall Stree
Journal ("Global Warming Could Mean Big Chill for Northern Regions'):


"Based on globally averaged land temperatures, said the National Climatic
Data Center (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce), January 2003 was the
second-warmest January on record world-wide -- 1.85° Fahrenheit above the
1880-2002 average.

The juxtaposition of a big chill in the Northeast and near-record warmth
globally seems eerily like the most dire predictions of climate change: As
most of the world gets toastier, average winter temperatures in Northeastern
America and Western Europe could plunge 9° F.

"If that possibility surprises you, it's because much of the talk about
climate change is couched in benign language. "Global warming" sounds
downright pleasant, and the attendant changes are implicitly assumed to be

"We should be so lucky. Two of the worst repercussions of climate change
would be anything but pleasant or slow: the Gulf Stream no longer conveying
warmth from tropical to northern latitudes, and Antarctic glaciers breaking
off and surging into the sea, bringing a catastrophic rise in sea level
around the world.

"The wrecking of the Gulf Stream was a hot topic at the recent World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, because of its implications for the
economies of Northern industrial regions.
It helps to think of the Gulf Stream as a checkout counter. When this warm,
salty current reaches its Northern terminus, the arctic air cools it,
causing it to sink (cold water is denser than warm). Much like a
grocery-store conveyor belt that dives underneath the counter pulls up the
other end, the Gulf Stream's plunge pulls warm tropical water up to the
Northeastern U.S. and Canada and Western Europe. That makes these regions at
least 9.5° F. warmer than they'd be without the Gulf Stream.

"If the cold, salty North Atlantic waters didn't sink, the current would
weaken or stop. Land temps would fall 5.4° to 9°. "Winters would be twice as
cold as the worst on record," Robert B. Gagosian, director of Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass., said at Davos.

"The greatest threat to this thermal conveyer belt is fresh water. Less
dense than salt water, an influx of it would prevent the northernmost Gulf
waters from plunging.

"An influx is exactly what's occurring. In December, scientists from the
U.S., Russia and Germany reported that Eurasia's six largest rivers have
been dumping more and more freshwater into the Arctic Ocean: Discharges rose
7% from 1936 to 1999, probably because of more rainfall.
'We're seeing huge freshening in the North Atlantic,' says Mr. Gagosian.
'The sinking of the cold, salty water has slowed 20% in the last 30 years.'
No one knows how much of a freshwater influx would shut down the Gulf Stream
(this winter's big chill in the Northeast is not a sign that the current is
weakening so much as a sneak preview of what climate would be like without

"But if the tipping point were reached, the nations of the North Atlantic
could face a so-called little ice age in under a decade. Icebergs would lurk
off Portugal.

"The ice around Antarctica already is setting off alarms. A couple of the
massive, floating ice shelves that fringe the Antarctic Peninsula have
collapsed recently, including -- most spectacularly -- the Larsen B shelf.
It broke up last winter, and a piece the size of Rhode Island moved into the
southern ocean.

"That was supposed to have no effect on sea level -- just as a melting ice
cube in your scotch doesn't raise the level of your drink. But a study in
Friday's Science undercuts that reassuring notion. Since the collapse of a
major ice shelf in 1995, five of the six major glaciers behind it have begun
surging into the sea, report Hernan De Angelis and Pedro Skvarca of the
Argentine Antarctic Institute in Buenos Aires.

"The surprising discovery, based on airborne surveys and satellite images,
is forcing scientists to re-examine the possibility that ice shelves act
like corks in a bottle: Remove them, and the glaciers behind accelerate
toward the sea. Glaciers are moving as much as 200% faster where an ice
shelf has disappeared, says glaciologist Robert H. Thomas of NASA:
'Individually, the extra water a glacier adds to the world's seas doesn't
amount to much, but if more and more glaciers start surging as we lose ice
shelves it's a much bigger problem.'

"The usual estimates of sea-level rise (between 4 inches and 40 inches by
2100) don't include the effects of surging glaciers. Doing so would at least
double the low-end estimates.

"The Bush White House doesn't believe climate change is real, let alone
dangerous. But the military is examining the national-security implications
of ice-choked shipping lanes and frozen harbors, not to mention what a deep
freeze would do to two powerful economic regions."


Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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