Don Davis

On Our Wacky Weather, Or, Did The Olympic Torch Stop In Oklahoma?

Filed By Don Davis | February 19, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: climate change, election 2010, Global Warming, James Inhofe, Oklahoma, politics, Winter Olympics

As most of you are well aware, last week was a snow week in Washington, DC, and the odds are pretty good that there's something like that going on for you as well.

Our good friends in the conservative community have seized upon the moment as proof that this whole "global warming" thing is just a big scam perpetrated by the likes of Al Gore and his Legion of Weather Nazis; their mission being only to deprive the American people of their Constitutional right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Ford Super Duty F-450 King Ranch Edition with the Heavy Service Suspension Package, Snow Plow Prep Package, Transmission Power Take-Off Provision, dual alternators, and supplemental cab heater.

To drive the point home, last week Senator James Inhofe's family went to the time and trouble to build a little igloo on the National Mall for our amusement.

But here's a question: just what has the weather been like in other places--for example, in my part of the world...or in the Senator's home State of Oklahoma?

It's a good question--and the Senator won't like the answer.

What's Up With The Olympics?

"As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, "much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science." I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations..."

--Senator James Inhofe, January 4, 2005

Are you watching skiing and boarding events at the Olympics this week?

If you are, you're probably hearing about the difficult conditions, which are affecting operations to the point that, even as I'm writing this, events are being postponed in order to work around the conditions.

Basically what's happening is that lots of snow is falling on the upper portions of the Whistler Mountain complex, but at lower altitudes temperatures just above freezing are causing that same moisture to fall as rain, which turns snow to slush, or to hang in the air as fog, which is making it hard to judge ski performances and for competitors to see the runs.

Cypress Mountain Resort, the location of the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard events, is also located at a relatively low altitude, with the result being similarly choppy conditions.

(It's predicted that a high pressure front currently moving up the West Coast will cause clear and cold nights for the next few days, freezing--and thereby preserving--the snowpack each evening. My guess: this won't improve conditions on the lower portions of the mountains; instead, expect the already rain-soaked and "concrete-like" snow to develop a gnarly crust of ice as it remelts and refreezes over each of the next several 24-hour cycles.)

"Would You Like to See the Video?"

This is much different than the weather last year--and I would know, as I live just about 200 miles south of the Olympic venues, in the foothills of the same mountains that wind their way along the North American Pacific Coast until they eventually find their way up to Alaska's Denali National Park.

This time last year I was shoveling snow every day, and the sides of my driveway had snow walls four feet high. This year, absolutely no snow at all.

Snoqualmie Pass, the local ski area, is about 25 miles farther east and about 2000 feet higher in altitude than my house, and I have some video that will help illustrate the difference between this year and normal years.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reports that only 171 inches of snow have fallen at the Pass through January 31st of this year, which is only about 40% of the five-year average.

Here's a WSDOT video that shows snow removal operations on the Pass. Pay attention to how much snow is on the roads, on the trees, and in the traffic median:


I was on the same road last Saturday, and in the beginning of the next video I want you to note that there is no new snow on the trees, and that there's also virtually no snow along the "Jersey barriers" on the side of the road. Near the end of the video the orange snow poles in the Pass' residential areas are only halfway buried, which is certainly not normal for this time of the year.

Here's another example of how unusual the weather has been: there are two routes that can get you between the Eastern Washington cities of Ellensburg and Yakima. One of them is US 97/I-82 (the freeway), the other is State Route (SR) 821, also known as the Canyon Road (the more twisty and turn-y, and therefore more fun, route).

For a variety of reasons related to local and regional geography Eastern Washington is colder than Western Washington, and this time of the year you'd expect the Canyon Road to have some combination of snow, slush, ice, or all of the above on the road, as well as some considerable accumulation of snow and ice on the canyon walls.

In other words...adventure driving.

In the next video you can see what the road looked like last Saturday. You'll see virtually no snow at all in the canyon, and lots of exposed basalt and brown grass.

(Fun Fact: basalt is associated with volcanic activity, which means pretty much everything you're seeing in this video was a part of one of the world's largest known and fastest flowing lava flows.)

(The blurring in the video is caused by rain on the lens.)

Build an Igloo...That'll Distract Them

So that's how things are in the Pacific Northwest...but what about Oklahoma?

dust bowl.jpg

Oklahoma is a place with a drought history, and the worst times in that history were the 1930s, a time when conditions were so severe that the entire region (including parts of Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and other states besides) was known as the "Dust Bowl." The combination of poor farming practices and a four-year reduction in rain of about 25% caused more than 100 million acres of land to lose its topsoil, creating dust storms of legendary proportions.

"...Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes..."

--John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath"

There is a new twist in that history playing out today: the same parts of Oklahoma that suffered the most damage in the 1930s are seeing "rainfall deficits" so severe in recent years that Senator Inhofe personally sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture in July of 2008 asking for...wait for it...well, you know what? Let's let Senator Inhofe tell you what the letter said, courtesy of his own official Senate website:

"On Thursday, July 18, 2008, Senator Jim Inhofe welcomed Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer's announcement of an agricultural disaster designation for Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woodward, Ellis, Roger Mills, Dewey and Woods counties in Northwestern Oklahoma. Senator Inhofe, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer in support of an agriculture disaster designation on July 3, 2008..."

Now here's the twist: according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who is responsible for knowing this stuff, there's been a recent alteration in the pattern of weather in the Midwest...a "climate change", if you will.

Normally you plant a crop in the spring, and you hope that you'll get enough rain to get that crop spouted and thriving; the idea being to have corn "as high as an elephant's eye", to give just one example.

What's been happening in the 21st Century is that the spring rains, in certain areas, were far less than expected, with an excess of rain falling at the end of the season. Some places were 70% or more below their normal rainfall amounts until significant amounts of rain began falling in July and August.

"This old dust storm it's a kickin' up cinders, this old dust storm cuttin' down my wheat, this old dust storm it pushed my shack down, but it didn't get me, girl, it can't stop me."

--Woody Guthrie, "Dust Can't Kill Me"

This is not good: if you're trying to grow grasses (including wheat or barley), the crops will have a hard time getting established (and they also don't harvest well if it's raining at harvest time); if it's corn or soybeans or something similar you're growing, those crops will yield a smaller number of smaller things like soybeans or ears of corn.

That means you need more and more irrigation and fertilizer to reap harvests of the same or smaller yields--which is putting even more pressure on farmers who were already struggling just to get by.

And in fact, the entire State of Oklahoma--not just the drought areas--is feeling the effects, with yields for many crops declining again in 2009, even compared to some very tough 2008 numbers.

NASA reports that from August of 2007 until August of 2008 the Oklahoma Panhandle experienced its driest weather since 1921, and you can see the impact on vegetation, thanks to the Terra satellite's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer.

And did I mention that parts of Oklahoma have been a bit warm lately?

If we look at the weather charts for Gage, Oklahoma (which is located just to the right of the Panhandle, and within the "disaster area"), from 2005 until today we see that 2006, 2008, and 2009 were all warmer than normal. 2010 has already been a warmer than average year, although not as much as 2006, 2007, 2008, or 2009.

So...add all this up, and what do you get?

Here's what: a Senator who denies that there is such a thing as "climate change" has the in-laws building an igloo on the National Mall...at a time when the city should be preparing for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Meanwhile, the Olympics are impacted by unusually low amounts of snowfall--and the Senator himself has recently been asking for emergency relief for his home State...because of a disastrous change in climate.

Of course, if I had to go out and explain to farmers in Cimarron County that there is no weather problem, and then promise to ask for aid for that weather problem, both at the same time, I might decide that hiding in my igloo was the smart move as well--and if he can keep it up just a bit longer, he may actually beat out Scott Brown for the tile of "First Truckin' Senator In History To Ever Traverse An Ice Road Up Denial"...which, as everyone knows, is not just a River in Egypt.


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Stop trying to push global warming. It is nothing more than a political agenda to transfer wealth from the richer nations to the poorer developing nations. The Hansen computer model was flawed. Two gliches caused it to ALWAYS predict global warming no matter what numbers you fed into to it. And now the East Anglia E-mails. Knowing they fudged the numbers caused the director of said research to immediately resign his post.
Al Gore pushed global warming because he had a deal with Lay of Emron, who was going to be the broker on the carbon credits. Trillions of dollars involved.
And no, I don't own a gas guzzling vehicle. I drive a Ford Taurus or ride a bike. I do so not because of the environment, but because we have hit peak oil and we need to start conserving this valuble resource. Look past the emotion and follow the money trail, it is very revealing!!!!

You are one to talk about how to "follow the money trail" --- since every rise in the popularity of alternative energy sources threatens the unbounded profitability of the entire global petroleum infrastructure. The petroleum industry is dropping billions to conduct a massive mis-information campaign, and it's not rocket science to see why.

Actually, I think the Luddites have nothing to fear --- even if alternative energy ramps up dramatically, civilization will still have a need for petroleum, probably right up until the day that the very last drop is extracted out of the ground.

at some point in ground reserves can be "extended" by more aggressive recycling, which we should also keep in mind.

here's the thing:

there is some sort of change occurring in the climate--and it's getting to the point where we can all see it.

it's pretty tough to deny that glaciers are retreating faster and faster every year, the images of canada's, greenland's and antarctica's ice fields are startling, and there are lots of new places in the polar north that are becoming more and more accessible every year.

we do have the data to demonstrate that average temperatures worldwide over the past couple of decades are among the highest ever recorded.

the increase in temperature was sufficient, in oklahoma, to cause even senator inhofe to acknowledge that a weather-related disaster was taking place, as we discussed above.

you may recall that climatologists associate a change of global temps of ony 1-2 degrees celsius with the onset of the little ice age in europe in the 1700s.

how could a global increase in temperature cause a mini ice age, you might ask?

the answer appears to be that the increase in temp disrupted the gulf stream's ability to more warm air from the equator across the north atlantic to europe--a condition that is predicted to occur again. it's this sort of change that makes the term "global warming" a bit inaccurate and "climate change" a bit more accurate.

but even if you don't buy into the theory here, you have hinted at the other imperative driving change: energy security.

why wouldn't we want to conserve a scarce resource, and why wouldn't we want to try to cut the $700 billion dollar annual cost of imported oil out of the "national expenses"--and even more importantly, why wouldn't you want to look saudi arabia or venezuela or iran in the eye and say: "no thanks, we have windmills to provide our energy now"?

Climate change is a much better way to express what is happening! The same change is happening all through our solar system. Each planet is changing in unpredictable ways and we are measuring this for future generations. Changes in the sun seem to be indicated as the culprit!!! Man is fouling the earth at an ever increasing rate that must be slowed and if possible reverved! Until the driving force behind our conscience is the welfare of said future generations, this is not going to happen!!! Money wealth and power are what is driving the world leaders and slowly going to push us pass the point of no return. The little guy driving an old beat up 1972 Impala that smokes is not the reason the environment is suffering!!! Look at the corporations and the polution that they get away with, especially in places like Mexico and more so China!!!!! When they farmed out our industry they did not take our pollution laws with them and hence the environmental damage is excellerating at a much greater rate!!!
I'm not against Green, I'm against those that lie to us to use anything and everything to get more control and power!!!!

i do agree that we would be better off by getting india, mexico, and china in a kyoto-style agreement...but it's also fair to point out that there are reports that we put more carbon dioxide into the air than china, india, and mexico combined.

in fact, it's estimated that about 25% of all the air pollution on the planet comes from this country.

as it turns out, this isn't entirely bad news. the two principal sources of air pollution in the us appear to be coal-fired power plants and automobile tailpipe emissions, and it's possible to put into place technologies that can dramatically reduce both types of emissions.

for example, a series hybrid automobile has a much smaller engine than the car (or taxi) you're driving around in today, thus a lot less comes out the tailpipe.

vehicles burning natural gas also demonstrate vastly lower emissions
levels
than either gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles.

battery electric cars emit nothing themselves, so as you change out the auto fleet to battery electric the question then becomes: "what happens at the power plant?"

suppose you start building a whole lot more windmills, for example, or increased the proportion of geothermal, or start getting people to adopt solar panel installations for their homes, all to take some of the load off of the existing generation capacity.

all of a sudden, you're nearly eliminating one of the two primary sources of pollution--and saving about $700 billion a year due to the fact you no longer have to import oil for cars.

which brings us to coal-fired power plants.

there are some experiments under way to see if we can't find a better way to treat coal emissions.

that said, if we can solve this problem for the 25% of world emissions that come from us...we could sell that technology to other countries for use on their 75%--assuming we get there before china, which is also beginning to try to clean up their coal emissions.

I've been lucky. I lived long enough (by escaping the plague and the Draft Board's GI as hamburger strategy) to get a strong sense that the science fiction I used to devour in high school is fast becoming science fact.

I'm not talking about first contact adventures with badass aliens featuring incandescent, coruscating death rays or planet killing galactic things that go boom.

I'm referring to the best of science fiction;
serious near future social science fiction. When I was a mere pup, still in High School in 1960 or 61 I read A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, one of the earliest and far and away the best post-nuclear war apocalyptic tale ever written. It's the centuries long tale of a monastery dedicated to preserving science that ends as rebuilt civilizations in Indonesia (reasonable enough) and one centered in Texarkana (highly unlikely) launch a second nuclear holocaust. Later I read The Genocides by Tom Disch. It described how quickly ecological damage can lead to collapse when giant plants run amok and wreck the environment. And The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner that describes with eerie prescience the early stages of ecological collapse including smog-maddened Angelinos stopping polluting cars and stringing up their drivers, a scenario that must haunt Hummer owners.

What impressed me at the time was the potential we had for allowing greed or militarism to destroy ours hard won civilizations.

25 years later as a smog maddened Angelino I got a firsthand look at environmental disaster living in a bowl 60 miles by 40 miles. The sky fluctuated between a choking thick brownish orange on bad days and an eye-stinging grey sludgy sky. LA became a town of growing class tensions caused by massive permanent unemployment for women, Blacks and Latinos. That's why a 'routine' police beating - every working person knew they happened - sparked an insurrection that was never put down - the cops ran away, unlike the firefighters and it ended on its own terms.

Slack jawed, I watched as an easily controlled plague was allowed to grow like a prairie fire and consume the lives of tens, then hundreds of thousands becasue of deliberate, malign neglect fueled by hatred of gay men, Blacks and Latinos. For someone who thought of himself as an unflappable, badass revolutionist I admit I was shocked by that.

Now, 50 years after those books came we can see all around us the growing impact of accelerating social and environment decay. The truth is that people have seen this coming since the end of WWII. Wars to the death over dwindling resources, water crises, increasingly severe and unexpected weather patterns, burning forests on every continent, polar melting, food shortages and famines, desertification and slavery like working conditions for billions of people have been with us since the day the first Elamite clobbered a Sumerian with a clay tablet and took off with the goats.

But not on a global scale, and not endangering so many civilizations at once in so many different and intractable ways. People can deny global warming all they want but it means nothing. The damage has been done and we'll be hard put to contain it.

i have to agree that this is the first time i can think of that the threat of a single calamity (save for global thermonuclar war) really has the potential to affect us all.

the closest parallel i can think of is the series of regional calamities that occurred worldwide from roughly the 14th to the 17th centuries; those being the famines and bubonic plagues of the 14th century in europe, the deaths of 35 million or so chinese at the hands of the mongols, also in the 14th century, the collapse of islamic civilization in the 16th century, the decimation of the population of the "new world" as europeans arrived, and the introduction of slavery for industrial purposes into africa and beyond.

and even though the fact that we survived all of that should give us some hope for the future, the plain fact is that none of that prepares us for the the problem of where 300 million bangladeshis will live if sea levels rise much more--and that's not something i think our friends on the other side are thinking about.

Sorry, Don, I forgot to say that this post was excellent.

thanks--and i forgot to note that i grew up in la, but now live in the seattle area...which brings a story to mind.

we were in san diego for a vist about half a dozen years ago, and we went up to the casino at viejas, just to have a peek around.

the casino is up in the mountains, and on the way back down i was so impressed with how lovely the sun looked reflecting off the water that day--until i realized that i was seeing sunlight reflecting off the top of the smog layer that had formed over the san diego basin under the warm summer sun.

Amazing that the first comment was someone trying to disclaim science once again. I'm just going to say, while they always claim, "But scientists actually say..." they never seem to point out that it's a tiny fraction of fringe people who have usually been discredited from the scientific community.

instead of getting frustrated by something like that... i just go visit cute things exploding.

much more therapeutic, if i may say so myself.

I was not disclaiming science at all!!!! Just bad science, which no one here tried to discredit. As far as the doubter being on the fringe, 28,000 engineers and scientists have signed a petition stating that global warming was not true!!! Most of the main stream scientic community would like to see more research done before we form a definite conclusion.
Even the head houncho at East Anglia stated that the average world temperature had dropped 1/2 degree over the last decade!!!!! We just don't know enough about climate to make such conclusions at this time. Has something to do with solar cycles possibly?
And by the way none other than Hilary Rodman-Clinton and Secratary of the Interior Stevens, both stated that the Gov't controls the weather!!!!! Stevens was quoted in I believe the Washington Post (yech) and Hilary said this on the Letterman show one evening!!! Saw it myself, so I know she said it!!
Just wanted to set the record straight!!! And by the way I'm not a Luddite as some have stated!!!! I just don't like being lied to by people with hidden agendas!!!

i have a few thoughts here, so let's walk through some of this and see where it all ends up:

--first, there are a lot of people who would question the validity of the "petition", and the methodology by which it was developed.

here are excerpts from an article over at the skeptics' society that lays out some of arguments on the other side:

"...According to the website which reports the details of the petition and is presumably authored by Arthur Robinson, “the purpose of the Petition Project is to demonstrate that the claim of “settled science” and an overwhelming “consensus” in favor of the hypothesis of humancaused global warming and consequent climatological damage is wrong.” Robinson asserts not just that his collection of 31,072 signatures on a petition has refuted the claim of “settled science” and “overwhelming consensus” among scientists with regard to global warming, but that “The very large number of petition signers demonstrates that, if there is a consensus among American scientists, it is in opposition to the human caused global warming hypothesis rather than in favor of it...

...In the end, “valid” and signed petition cards were obtained from 31,072 persons with degrees in the following fields: Earth science (3,697 persons or 12% of the total); computer science and mathematics (903 or 3%); physics and aerospace sciences (5,691 or 18%); chemistry (4,796 or 15%); biology and agriculture (2,924 or 9%); medicine (3,069 or 10%); and engineering and general science (9,992 or 32%). The breakdown according to educational level was: PhD (9,021 or 29%); MS (6,961 or 22%); MD and DVM (2,240 or 7%); and BS or equivalent (12,850 or 41%).5 On his website Robinson fails to report the cross-tabulations of fields of expertise and levels of education for his petition respondents. For example, we aren’t told what percentage of the persons with Earth science expertise had Ph.D. degrees...

...If Robinson had been conducting a true survey, he would have offered an operational definition of “consensus” before he started his inquiry. Robinson misleads the public to think that a consensus is defined by some large absolute number of persons. It is not. It is determined by a large percentage of persons in a relevant sample. Does Robinson, or the general public, think of a consensus as agreement within a given group at a level of 75%, 90%, or some other percentage? He does not tell us. He reports only the number of persons who sent back signed petition cards, but he reports neither the total number of persons to whom he sent petition cards in the first place nor the number of persons to whom he sent petition cards who subsequently returned only messages of disagreement...

the short version of all of this? collecting 30,000 signatures from people with college degrees ain't that tough, having a college degree doesn't automatically make you a "scientist", only 12% of the reported respondents actually have any earth science background--and out of the unknown number of petition cards he sent out, we have no idea how many disagreed with the thinking behind the petition, as that is not reported.

as to the argument that current climate models are inadequate: the university of washington has been working hard to develop data--and according to them, the models used to predict warming are probably flawed...because now it's starting to look as though things are actually going to get worse, faster, than the original modeling had predicted:

"...Satellite and direct measurements now demonstrate that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass and contributing to sea level rise at an increasing rate.

Arctic sea-ice has melted far beyond the expectations of climate models. For example, the area of summer sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Sea level has risen more than 5 centimeters over the past 15 years, about 80% higher than IPCC projections from 2001. Accounting for ice-sheets and glaciers, global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of up to 2 meters considered an upper limit by this time. This is much higher than previously projected by the IPCC. Furthermore, beyond 2100, sea level rise of several meters must be expected over the next few centuries.

In 2008 carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were ~40% higher than those in 1990. Even if emissions do not grow beyond today's levels, within just 20 years the world will have used up the allowable emissions to have a reasonable chance of limiting warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius..."

islands are already sinking, and people are having to move, including tuvalu and the maldives, two nations who are seeking to relocate their entire populations as they begin to sink beneath the waves.

even the department of defense has been noticing the changes:

"...The Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program highlights polar and sub-polar regions as research emphases, since they have exhibited more rapid changes than the lower latitudes. The U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) is America’s lead Federal laboratory for polar and sub-polar research. The CRREL research program responds to the needs of the military, but much of the research also benefits the civilian sector and is funded by non-military customers such as NSF, NOAA, NASA, DOE, and State governments. DOD research has examined impacts of climate change on retreating Arctic sea ice. Satellite data show that the extent of Arctic sea ice has decreased by about 10%, and the sonar data collected by U.S. Navy submarines in the Arctic between 1957 and 2000 show the average ice thickness has decreased between 33 and 42%..."

according to nasa, we've been on a warming trend since at least 1880:

"...January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Throughout the last three decades, the GISS surface temperature record shows an upward trend of about 0.2°C (0.4°F) per decade. Since 1880 — the year that modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely — a clear warming trend is present, though there was a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s.

The near-record temperatures of 2009 occurred despite an unseasonably cool December in much of North America. High air pressures in the Arctic decreased the east-west flow of the jet stream (a fast flowing air current in the troposphere), while also increasing its tendency to blow from north to south and drag cold air southward from the Arctic. This resulted in an unusual effect that caused frigid air from the Arctic to rush into North America and warmer mid-latitude air to shift toward the north.

"Of course, the contiguous 48 states cover only 1.5 percent of the world area, so the U.S. temperature does not affect the global temperature much,' said Hansen.

In total, average global temperatures have increased by about 0.8°C (1.4°F) since 1880. “That’s the important number to keep in mind,” said Gavin Schmidt, another GISS climate researcher. “In contrast, the difference between, say, the second and sixth warmest years is trivial since the known uncertainty — or noise — in the temperature measurement is larger than some of the differences between the warmest years."

nasa also wants you to know that sun cycles and other similar phenomena are not likely to the culprit here:

"...Climate scientists agree that rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap incoming heat near the surface of the Earth and are the key factors causing the rise in temperatures since 1880. But these gases are not the only factors that can impact global temperatures.

Three others key factors — changes in the sun’s irradiance (energy), changes in sea surface temperature in the tropics, and variations in aerosol levels in the atmosphere — can also cause slight increases or decreases in the planet's temperature. Overall, the evidence suggests that these effects are not enough to account for the global warming observed since 1880...."

now what about those ice sheets?

nasa maintains a page you can visit that is nothing but images of retreating glacier fields and lakes that are drying up--and the matterhorn, back when it used to be covered in snow the year 'round...and today, when it isn't.

the national snow and ice data center is maintained by the university of colorado at boulder, and is resourced by the two heavyweights in the climatology field, nasa and noaa.

in addition to a lot of other great resources, they maintain a site that allows you to access the satellite images and see for yourself what's going on.

this page allows you to compare images of the antarctic ice fields over the decade from 1999 to 2009. (obviously, this would be more useful if it covered the past 100 years...but just as obviously, satellite images for the past 100 years would be a bit tough to collect.)

apparently glaciers can gain and lose ice, both at the same time; this according to research being done--again--at the university of washington, this time by researchers at the uw's applied physics laboratory, who would want you to know that...

"The minimum of Arctic sea ice extent in the summer of 2007 was unprecedented in the historical record..."

...of course, 2008 wasn't much better, and here's why, according to the folks at national geographic magazine:

"...As temperatures warm due to global warming, Arctic ice is getting thinner, which makes it easier to melt—especially in warmer water.

The oldest ice can be meters thick, having grown over the course of many years. A significant portion of these ice chunks have floated out of the Arctic into the warmer Atlantic Ocean and melted, Comiso said.

Thick ice that melts or floats away in summer is replaced by thin ice, formed over the course of one winter, and this thin ice melts even quicker the following summer, he explained.

Meanwhile, Arctic Ocean water that used to be covered by ice—which deflects much of the light and warmth of the sun—now absorbs that solar energy, causing it to warm further.

Comiso noted that according to scientists in the field, Arctic ice has been melting even faster from the bottom than it has from the top..."

so let's put all of this together:

there are 30,000 or so people who have signed a petition that asserts that there is no consensus on global warming--but it's unknown exactly how many of those people are scientists at all, let alone scientists with relevant expertise. it's also unknown how many people received an invitation to sign the petition but declined to do so.

it was possible, not so very long ago, to collect all kinds of signatures of learned folk who would testify to the fact that galileo had no idea what he was talking about, either...but galileo had observational evidence on his side...which is also the case here.

over on the other side, the people who do climate science for a living--including nasa, noaa, the university of washington, the university of colorado, and even the us department of defense--have evidence that shows ice fields retreating and getting thinner over the past 50 years, and data reporting that average global temperatures have in fact been steadily climbing since the very first day it was possible to conduct such measurements.

the people who are being affected today are seeking to relocate entire countries...because they really have no choice, unless they intend to go down with the island, or something.

of course, as we mention before, there are non-science reasons to make these changes to our energy economy--and about 700 billion of those reasons end up leaving the country every year to pay for imported oil.

of course, that's if gas stays below $3.00 a gallon...but remember when it was pushing $4.00 a gallon just about 18 months ago?

if that happens we'll be looking at something like $1 trillion a year for our imported oil bill...and that same $1 trillion could purchase all the windmills you need to provide the generating capacity to power every car in the us, if they were all battery-powered cars--twice--and i would know, because i actually ran the numbers on this.

so there you go: there's actual science that suggests this is really happening, and even if it weren't the economics are compelling...and we haven't even really touched on the national security implication of all of this, but they also matter.

finally, i'd encourage you to visit these links yourself and see what is being said by people you're paying perfectly good tax dollars to figure this stuff out. after all, it's your money, in the end, so why not take advantage of the resources you're paying for?