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Antarctic Ice Melt at Lowest Levels in Satellite Era

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World Climate Report
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where are the headlines? Where are the press releases? Where is all the attention?

The ice melt across during the Antarctic summer (October-January) of 2008-2009 was the lowest ever recorded in the satellite history.

Such was the finding reported last week by Marco Tedesco and Andrew Monaghan in the journal Geophysical Research Letters:

A 30-year minimum Antarctic snowmelt record occurred during austral summer 2008–2009 according to spaceborne microwave observations for 1980–2009. Strong positive phases of both the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Southern Hemisphere Annular Mode (SAM) were recorded during the months leading up to and including the 2008–2009 melt season.

Antarctic Ice Melt at Lowest Levels in Satellite Era
Figure 1. Standardized values of the Antarctic snow melt index (October-January) from 1980-2009 (adapted from Tedesco and Monaghan, 2009).

The silence surrounding this publication was deafening.

It would seem that with oft-stoked fears of a disastrous sea level rise coming this century any news that perhaps some signs may not be pointing to its imminent arrival would be greeted by a huge sigh of relief from all inhabitants of earth (not only the low-lying ones, but also the high-living ones, respectively under threat from rising seas or rising energy costs).

But not a peep.

But such is not always the case—or rather, such is not ever the case when ice melt is pushing the other end of the record scale.

For instance, below is a collection of NASA stories highlighting record high amounts of melting (or in most cases, simply higher than normal amounts in some regions) across Greenland in each of the past 3 years, as ascertained by Marco Tedesco (the lead author of the latest report on Antarctica):

NASA Researcher Finds Days of Snow Melting on the Rise in Greenland

“In 2006, Greenland experienced more days of melting snow and at higher altitudes than average over the past 18 years, according to a new NASA-funded project using satellite observations….”

NASA Finds Greenland Snow Melting Hit Record High in High Places

“A new NASA-supported study reports that 2007 marked an overall rise in the melting trend over the entire Greenland ice sheet and, remarkably, melting in high-altitude areas was greater than ever at 150 percent more than average. In fact, the amount of snow that has melted this year over Greenland is the equivalent of more than twice the surface size of the U.S…”

Melting on the Greenland Ice Cap, 2008

“The northern fringes of Greenland’s ice sheet experienced extreme melting in 2008, according to NASA scientist Marco Tedesco and his colleagues.”

And lest you think that perhaps NASA hasn’t had any data on ice melt across Antarctica in past years, we give you this one:

NASA Researchers Find Snowmelt in Antarctica Creeping Inland

“On the world’s coldest continent of Antarctica, the landscape is so vast and varied that only satellites can fully capture the extent of changes in the snow melting across its valleys, mountains, glaciers and ice shelves. In a new NASA study, researchers [including Marco Tedesco] using 20 years of data from space-based sensors have confirmed that Antarctic snow is melting farther inland from the coast over time, melting at higher altitudes than ever and increasingly melting on Antarctica’s largest ice shelf.”

But this time around, nothing, nada, zippo from NASA when their ice melt go-to guy Marco Tedesco reports that Antarctica has set a record for the lack of surface ice melt (even more interestingly coming on the heels of a near-record low ice-melt year last summer).

So, seriously, NASA, what gives? If ice melt is an important enough topic to warrant annual updates of the goings-on across Greenland, it is not important enough to elucidate the history and recent behavior across Antarctica?

(These are not meant as rhetorical questions)

Reference

Tedesco M., and A. J. Monaghan, 2009. An updated Antarctic melt record through 2009 and its linkages to high-latitude and tropical climate variability. Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L18502, doi:10.1029/2009GL039186.

This article was posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 8:59 am





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