James Balog has an amazing, but terrifying, presentation of how different glaciers are retreating, shown on time-lapse cameras that take pictures every hour. Watch it here.
(It looks like I should be able to embed the video, but it’s not working. I hardly know html so I’m probably missing something – I am using the “code” and “/code” buttons, though. Any suggestions?)
I find the actual video footage from extreme ice more compelling. There is a whole set at vimeo, one of them is http://www.vimeo.com/2637977, my favorite from Greenland is http://www.vimeo.com/6037391- I have worked on this glacier and the video definitely brings the dynamic nature of the environment to life, that makes working on glaciers so interesting.
These show dramatic changes over short time periods. Balog has been working with some excellent glaciologists to help set these up and tie them into research as well as art.
I visit and measure the same glaciers every year, this was year 26. Columbia Glacier in Washington, not Alaska is an example.
photos from each summer, not nearly as exciting without the motion being evident, but science not usually about excitement.: http://www.nichols.edu/departments/Glacier/columbiacirque.htm
There is a new, widely-reported paper which has me confused. First, the paper itself: “Atmospheric carbon dioxide through the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition”. The authors have used concentrations of boron in Tanzanian fossil plankton to infer ocean CO2 levels, and from that atmospheric CO2 levels, at the time when the Antarctic ice sheets formed. Their best guess is 760 ppm, with a 95% confidence range of 450-1500 ppm. So in effect they propose that this is a critical level beyond which all Antarctica’s ice would melt.
Yet in the famous “target CO2” paper which ultimately launched the 350 movement, the authors concluded that “large scale glaciation occurr[ed] when CO2 fell to 425±75 ppm”. This is within the 95% confidence interval of the new paper, but the best guess is rather different – 760 ppm versus 425 ppm!
I suppose in theory there’s nothing to be confused about here. Paleoclimatology at a distance of tens of millions of years from the present is still full of large uncertainties. The two groups have used different CO2 proxies and different methodologies, and only a close reading is going to tell you how to rationally combine the data in both papers. But still – that’s a huge difference.