10 Acres of Melting = Global Warming

I must have had 50 people mail me various versions of the NY Times story on the citizens of Newtok, Alaska who had to abandon their homes due to melting permafrost that made their structures unstable.  Most of the emails came with a message such as “explain this away, skeptic boy.”

Generally I had two answers:

  1. Uh, it is kind of hard to deny that the Artic has warmed over the last 30 years, though that has leveled off in the last 10.  Climate changed naturally long before man began burning hydrocarbons.   One only has to consider the great cities of North Africa that have disappeared over the centuries as the area dried up to give the lie to the statement that “climate refugees” are a modern phenomenon.  Anyone ever hear about the Norsemen abandoning Greenland?
  2. I have been to the North Slope, and my dad was heavily involved in the planning for the Alaskan oil fields and pipeline.  And I can say with confidence that modern human habitations have to be very, very, very careful not to melt the permafrost both with their waste heat as well as by actions that strip insulating cover off the permafrost.

Greg Schiller covers this ground, and more, as he reveals that the real culprit in Newtok appears to be normal everyday riverbank erosion, and a state government that insisted on building a town in this particular location.

34 thoughts on “10 Acres of Melting = Global Warming”

  1. “Uh, it is kind of hard to deny that the Artic has warmed over the last 30 years, though that has leveled off in the last 10.”

    Incorrect. Here are some five year means for the north polar regions from UAH:

    Year end / 5 year mean

    1983 / -0.079
    1988 / -0.065
    1993 / -0.183
    1998 / 0.327
    2003 / 0.714
    2008 / 0.926

    “Climate changed naturally long before man began burning hydrocarbons”


    “Anyone ever hear about the Norsemen abandoning Greenland?”

    Anyone ever hear about the Inuit who thrived while the Norse died?

  2. The real take-away The New York Times (and CNN) story is not what global climate change is doing in Newtok, but what a sorry state that journalism is in. As one author put it, “Why don’t they teach people in school to think anymore.”

  3. The AGW fear machine is finding itself reducing its scope of fear mongering from planetary scale, to a particular ocean basin, now down to a few acres.
    Watching the implosion of AGW is getting better and better.

  4. Yep, 10 acres of melted permafrost is a sure sign of global warming, 10 years of cooling is just a gnat on the global warming elephant.

  5. Hunter (the fake one) the figures you show are not what I would call astronomical. I have seen a mean average from 2003 to present that shows less change happening; 3 years were no or little change, one year was substantially colder and one year was substantially warmer.

  6. markm, what relevance does your comment have to anything?

    Steve (the idiot one) – where did you see these figures you’re talking about? Was it in a dream you had?

  7. Hunter,

    The issue is not whether the Arctic has experienced marginal temperature change, it’s whether that change has impacted the permafrost in a significant way. It has not.

    Another issues is what is happening to Newtok. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, a fast flowing bend in the Ninglick River is eroding its way into town at a consistant rate of 85 feet a year. The rate has not changed since the erosion was first measured in the 1950’s.

  8. Jennifer,
    markim’s point has to do with what is called ‘responding to a point a you made’.
    Your point, as poorly conveyed as it was, implied that since the Inuit survived and the Vikings did not, that it was not climate that drove off the Vikings.
    markim pointed out that Inuit culture is built on surviving in high-ice environments, and Viking farmer culture was not.
    It was a cooling climate, as everyone in pre-AGW days knew, that changed and drove off the Vikings and allowed the Inuit to come into southern Greenland. But the AGW prmotion industry found that inconvenient, and Mann tried (unsuccessfully with thinking people) to trick people into thinking the climate had not changed in Greenland.
    But you know all of that.

  9. Greg S: in the dream world you appear to be inhabiting, what you say may be true. In the real world, it is not.

  10. Hunter,

    I dream of things more attractive than frozen mud, but when my thoughts turn to permafrost, I go for the facts rather than fantasy, that is why the New York Times article failed the smell test.

    On a hunch I googled Newtok and located a report from a civil engineer hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs which attributed the erosion at Newtok to the advancing Ninglick River. I then looked up other reports from the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Alaska.

    All the reports cited the rather normal geologic process of river erosion.

    I am not sure which real world you live on, but in the place I inhabit, the earth, dramatic degradation of permafrost is an extremely local phenomenon, not a global one.

  11. Alan,

    Sorry to come across as anal but the river erosion has a great deal to do with permafrost. As the river undercuts its bank, it exposes frozen ground to the elements. In effect, it rips away the soils insulating the permafrost.

    This happens in town too, as people, dogs, ATV’s, cars and snowmobiles destroy the insulating vegetation and the subsoils lose protection.

    Think of the permafrost as a beer cooler stuffed with ice.

    If you leave the cooler out on the porch all night, nothing much happens. Even as the temperature rise with sun the next day, little effect can be seen inside the cooler (this is your marginal effect of region/cyclical/global warming).

    But if you rip the top off the cooler. You best prefer your beer warm.

  12. What if somebody actually goes up there and looks?

    I wonder if they will find a situation similar to what has been going on around Fargo, North Dakota, where, as I understand it:
    the “fall” between Fargo and Hudson’s Bay is slight–so the water does not flow well under the best of circumstances, and so any backup, backs-up water pretty bad.

    The river flows north into colder terrain.

    There is ice forming a dam down stream, causing a backup, causing flooding.

    Nature, hard at work rearranging banks and river courses the way she wants them.

    Please see also my screed following.

  13. Here I address the whole “global warming” thing in a way that has so far gained zero acceptance from anybody.

    I can’t even attract an argument.

    Is the Earth warming. The short answer: Yes.

    By definition.

    The Earth has been warming since it was at the bottom of the most recent ice age.

    It will continue to warm until we turn[ed] the corner toward the next ice age.

    I am not a credentialed scientist of any sort, but I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody knows all of the reasons _why_ it is warming.

    Did we turn a corner and start the trip down again? I don’t know, but I am convinced that it is way too early to make any definitive pronouncements one way or another.

    And here I state that so far I mhave not addressed any interesting questions.

    The interesting questions follow.

    Is warming bad? I don’t think so. Every thing I have ever heard or read testifies that “warm” is associated through history and pre-history with plenty, wealth, health, ease, luxury, and general well-being. “Cold” is associated with famine, pestilence, want, hunger, and distress.

    Can we affect the climate? Yes. The history of the Great Plains is testimony to that.

    Should we spend huge amounts of money, kill our lifestyle, abort our dreams and aspirations (where the people here are all of the people of the planet) and so on in an effort to reduce Carbon Dioxide? HELL NO!. The scale issues say that we can do enough to matter, even if it was a good idea.

    Is there a way to look at what Gore wants us to do? Yes. Under truth-in-advertizing, his program would be called “The war on Brown People and Death of Freedom” effort.

  14. OK MORON HUNTER (the extremely fake one) If you would bother to broaden your horizon and look at the articles being written by those who believe the doomsmongers are in error you would know that your precious mean you are using is based on far to limiting data. Go back 100,000 years and try that mean or you can read “Limitations on Anthropogenic Global Warming” by Leonard Weinstein, ScD on March 1, 2009. A peak ocurred a few years ago and has started a down turn. Let Me know if you have difficulties locating the paper (or understanding it) and I will try to help.

  15. Well as someone who has lived in the Arctic and traveled from Alaska to Greenland and everywhere in between, I can report this “Micro Localized Global Warming” is not a new phenomenon. When I lived “Up North” as we Canuckistanis like to say, it was during the bitterly cold end of the last cooling period, in the early 70’s. This permafrost melting happened in proximity to almost every little village or other human habitation.

    Since these were localized sources of CO2, the obvious conclusion is that localized CO2 causes localized global warming leading to localized permafrost (aka perigellic cryaquept)to melt. /snarc off

    Wonder if I can get an IPCC grant and get invited to the next 5 star Global Warming gab fest? Sure hope it is in Bali in my winter . . . the tan looks so great when you come home.

  16. Steve – Thanks so much for the paper “Limitations on Anthropogenic Global Warming”. This paper echoes my sentiments about the various temperature reconstructions for thousands of years back. Those reconstructions may, or may not depending on how they are interpreted, be the best we have; but I recall the programmers mantra: garbage in, garbage out. If the reconstructions are basically garbage, we should not be using them to determine the course of mankind.

  17. I am a first-time visitor to this site and just want to say how interesting and informative I find it. The posts explaining the relationships between CO2 and feedback were especially helpful to a layman like myself. Thanks.

  18. “c.j. acworth”: endorsing your own website as a sockpuppet is pretty tragic, don’t you think?

  19. “Arguing with people who have lost all sense of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” —Thomas Paine

    Don’t feed the troll.

  20. Ok, so now we are focusing our attention on the fly buzzing around the room and pretending that the elephant that is standing there doesn’t exist.

    10 acres of parmafrost that may or may not be related in some way to Anthropogenic Global Warming that may or may not actually exist. Oh, Boo Hoo.

    The whole while you have massive glaciers in Alaska growing at a rate of 7 feet/DAY!!! Well, let’s see… at that rate I guess we have ice balance in, oh… 6 weeks.
    Now can we move on to the NEXT AGW catastophic flyspeck, please?

  21. Doc_Navy,
    The AGW community is highly invested in their apocalypse. They will not allow things like facts to get in the way of the end of the world.
    First they lost ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’. Then they lost ‘more and stronger storms’ to ‘fibbing about more and stronger storms’. They are just now losing ‘NO ARCTIC SEA ICE!!’ to ‘it is just measly first year ice’. Now they find glaciers growing. Give the AGW true believers a moment to mourn.
    They are down to 10 acres.
    It is tough realizing that the apocalypse you were tricked into believing in ain’t gonna happen.
    By the way, i was in the employee lounge when a WWF commercial came on. They actually said that Polar Bears are giong extinct *right now*. And that the only thing that would save them would be for the kind TV viewers at home to send money now- right now!- to the WWF.
    The WWF will even send a nice picture of a Polar bear family, smiling in appreciation.

  22. What the WWF SHOULD be sending out to all those folks is a video of that lunatic woman in Denmark who jumped into the polar bear compound during feeding time…

    Cuz, you know, polar bears are all cuddly and furry and sweet, and all they eat is magical snow grass, and seaweed and cotton candy.

    PS. I believe I once saw a series of pictures of a polar bear in Alaska that was waiting in a parking lot next to a parked car … for the driver to show up, yumm Dinner.

  23. Did anybody notice that the village in question in on an alluvial delta in southwestern Alaska? There’s erosion aplenty going on around there.

  24. I have to say, I am shocked to read this blog, deniers like you are almost as much as a threat as global warming itself. I would never have found it, but some wingnut linked it on Daily KOS.

    The evidence is IN, global warming is happening. We can afford action, but we cannot afford INACTION. We need more government involvement in the economy, to push for energy efficiency and reduced consumption. We need to live differently now, not when we start running out of oil. I just hope ignorance such as yours can be kept out of the media and our schools. We don’t have the luxury of time for your so called “debate.” If anything, the government should take action to educate people about global warming.

  25. Bruce,

    I fail to see why energy conservation and investing in alternative energy must be accomplished by “fear through lies”.

    As a conservative, energy conservation makes a great deal of sense. Why should I send my hard earned dollars to Exxon or the Saudis? Maybe that is why I drive a seven year old Honda Civic.

    You think?

    On the other hand, why should I send my hard earned dollars to green-mailing environmentalists and their Wall Street Investment Bank friends? Maybe that is why I point out obvious lies in the Global Warming Mythology.

    You think?

  26. Bruce,
    Are you a put up job? Are you just trolling to make AGW believers look even more stupid?
    If you think the the evidence is *IN*, you are an example of how scientific and historical illiteracy goes hand in hand with parochial arrogance.
    But if you are just posing to demonstrate the ignorance of the AGW believer, I congratulate you on a job well done.

  27. “I wonder what caused a flurry of emails about a two-year-old story.” – Enonymous

    See CNN ‘Climate change’ forces Eskimos to abandon village 11:35 a.m. EDT, Tue April 28, 2009

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