Global Warming Is Rapidly Changing Our World — Part 1

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When astronauts first went to space, it struck them that the atmosphere was this very thin crescent on the horizon (limb) of the Earth. This atmosphere is what we breath, what helps protect us from cosmic rays, and what keeps us from losing our oceans. When the first astronauts went to the moon, they were struck by the view of our planet from afar. Just a tiny Blue Marble floating in the vast expanse of space. How fragile must it be? They also were very much aware of the energy and technology it took to leave the Earth and how difficult it was to get to the moon, to say nothing of the nearest planet, Mars.

Figure 1: Apollo 17 astronaut photo from December 7, 1972 – portrayed as our Tiny Blue Marble. (Credit: NASA)

There has been much discussion that the next step in manned space exploration and colonization is to go to Mars. However, it costs over $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars) to send a small rover to Mars. It is estimated that a program to send humans to Mars would cost 1.5 trillion dollars and take over 20 years, and we are not talking about colonization. Mars is a hostile environment that would require special space habitats to live in, and space suits to exist outside. Bottom line: the deepest gold mine, the hottest desert, the Antarctic South Pole Station, or anyplace else on Earth is an infinitely more habitable place than any place in space that is remotely possible to reach.

Figure 2: Spirit Rover 3D picture of an “ideal” location for human habitation on Mars. (Credit: NASA)

You will need a pair of red/green stereo glasses, with the red lens over the left eye, to see the image in stereo.

You can see where I am going with this: humans can’t conceivably live any place but Earth in the foreseeable future, so we have no choice but to take care of our planet!

In this two-part analysis, I give some evidence that global warming is real and presents an existential threat to continued habitation of the over 7,900,000,000 humans who live here (September 2021) and their descendants who hope to live here in the future.

Global Warming is Real and Presents an Existential Threat to Our Earth

Each one of us should examine our lives and see what we can do to reduce our contribution to the warming of our planet and encourage others to do the same. If you have a car, don’t buy another gas car. When it’s time to buy your next car, buy an electric car. It’s the most dramatic statement an individual can make toward greening the Earth, holding off global warming, and eliminating the deadly poison coming out of your exhaust pipe. Below is evidence from space-borne observations and historical events that indicate that global warming is occurring.

Let us look at some of the effects of global warming. First look at the figure below that shows the reduction in multiyear thicker ice in the Arctic Ocean between 1980 and 2011. In Figure 5, we see the amount of open water by September of 2007, 2011, and 2012 when over half of the Arctic Ocean was free of ice for the first time in recorded history. 

Over one half of the Arctic Ocean was open water in the summer of 2007 and again in 2011 and 2012. The Northwest Passage was open in 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. The northern route along the Russian coast was open: 1995, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2010, and every year thereafter (2011–2021). 

Figure 4: Arctic sea ice melt 2007 — January. (Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)

Take a look at this marvelous animation of the melting Arctic sea ice (North Pole) from space — January to September 2007.

Figure 5: Arctic sea ice melt in 2007 — September (GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio)

In 1845 (176 years ago), the John Franklin Northwest Passage Expedition resorted to cannibalism after being locked in ice for two years. That wouldn’t happen today.

In 2012, Matt Rutherford sailed through the Northwest Passage and then the entire circumference of North and South America nonstop in a tiny old sailboat. He brought his 27-foot Vega sailboat, the St. Brendan, home on April 22, 2012, finishing a 27,000-mile adventure to the cheers of hundreds of people waiting on the Annapolis City Dock to see him take his first step on land in more than 10 months. When I worked for NASA, my family lived near Annapolis and visited the City Dock regularly from 1974 to 2005.

To see paintings of the John Franklin Expedition trapped in the ice – load the  following link into your browser

here: John Franklin Expedition

You can read more about the story of Matt Rutherford’s circumnavigation here. And here’s a photo of a container ship crossing the Arctic Ocean. The Russians have built container and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) ships for shipping across the Arctic Ocean.

See unprecedented Greenland ice sheet surface melt here:

Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right) 2012. Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated, and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. (Credit: Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory)

Normally, even in summer, the Greenland ice cap is so thick that the ice in the center at over 5000 ft altitude melts very little. However, in the following two images you can see that the ice melt around the lower elevation edges has increased substantially in the nearly 30 years between 1979 and 2007.

Figure 11: Greenland ice melt, 2007 and 1979 (Credit: Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)
Figure 12: Retreat of Greenland’s Helheim Glacier, 2001–2005 (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)
Figure 13: Retreat of Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland, 1851–2010 (Credit: Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)
Figure 14: Retreat of the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalaya’s Uttarkashi District, India (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Of the approximately 198,000 glaciers in the world, 90% are in retreat since 1850. Virtually all mountain glaciers in the world are in retreat. In this article, I have presented evidence that global warming is real and has caused unprecedented melting of ice on Greenland, on glaciers around the world, and in the Arctic Ocean. In the next article, I will present evidence that global warming is responsible for the increase in intensity of hurricanes, the increase in rainfall (and thus flooding) in some regions, and the increase in drought and fires in other regions.

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler has 111 posts and counting. See all posts by Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler