Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ellesmere -- a Crack of Doom...

I think perhaps I heard of Ellesmere Island before, but in what context I really have no idea.

Something happened up there not so long ago which may have been a "crack of doom", a warning that climate changes are perhaps occuring faster than anticipated and, in fact, we may already have reached or even passed a tipping pont.

Ellesmere is an island at the very north east corner of Canada, not far from the northen most tip of Greenland and it is one of the three places in the world where ice shelves are found.

Ice shelves are sheets of ice connected to land which extend far out into the ocean. They can easily be thirty, even a hundred meters thick.

Ellesmere has 6 ice shelves -- well had -- one of them decided to break off and go sailing on the open sea as a 44 sq. mile island. It's rather desolate and isolated territory up there and trains don't run very often, so nobody noticed for 16 months that a chunk of ice was missing.

However, when it was noticed, researchers could examine old sattellite photos and seimic records and found out that the break away occurred with a crack picked up by seimographs hundreds of miles away on August 13, 2005.

The point is that things happening far away can affect us all. The Ayles ice sjelf, which is now an island is no big thing in itself. At 44 sq miles it is a snowflake compared to the ice shelves found in Anartica. The point is that the crack away of the Ayles shelf (and the breakup of the Ward Hunt shelf in 2002) were not expected and when unexpected things happen, bigger unexpected things can also happen.

One of the the things that can happen is that so much fresh cold water gets dumped into the Noth Atlantic that the heat pump of the Gulf Stream is disrupted -- if that happens, we could be suddenly experiencing, instead of record warm years like 2006, but record cold.

That's why global warming is such a misleading term -- what we are looking at is global climate changes, with extreme variations of storm, rain, drought, heat and cold.

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