Sunday, August 16, 2009

Newly-Released Satellite Photos Tell Truth Regarding Global Warming

Graphic images that reveal the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic have been released by the US military. The photographs, taken by spy satellites over the past decade, confirm that in recent years vast areas in high latitudes have lost their ice cover in summer months.

The pictures, like the one below, were kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush; but, were declassified by the White House in mid-July. President Barack Obama is currently trying to spur Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One particularly striking set of images - selected from the 1,000 photographs released – is the image below. If you click on the bottom right-hand corner of photo, it will enlarge. These satellite photos include views of the Alaskan port of Barrow. The one taken in July 2006 shows the arctic sea ice very close to the shoreline; while, the one taken in July 2007 shows the sea ice has retreated at an alarming rate.

Satellite images of polar ice sheets taken in July 2006 and July 2007 showing the retreating ice during the summer. Photograph: Public Domain.

These images demonstrate how global warming is changing the Arctic. More than a million square kilometres of sea ice - a record loss - were missing in the summer of 2007 compared with the summer of 2006. Nor has this loss shown any sign of recovery. The ice cover for 2008 was equally non-existent in 2007, and 2009 looks like it shaped up equally lacking.

"These are one-metre resolution images, which give you a big picture of the summertime Arctic," said Thorsten Markus of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre. "This is the main reason why we are so thrilled about it. One-metre resolution is the dimension that's been missing."

The disappearing sea ice could cause hunters like polar bears to starve because they no longer have the ice platforms necessary from which to hunt. The missing sea ice is sea ice that is not reflecting solar energy back into the atmosphere. This causes the water level to warm, melting more Arctic ice, raising the sea levels and exposing more of the ocean to warming which melts more Arctic ice, raising the sea levels on and on ad nauseum until so much destruction has occurred there is no longer any hope of survival. The phenomenon of the Arctic Sea warming threatens to set off runaway heating of the planet according to climatologists.

The latest revelations have triggered warnings from scientists that they no longer have the funds to keep a comprehensive track of climate change. Mid-July 2009, the head of the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Professor Jane Lubchenco, gave this warning: "Our primary focus is maintaining the continuity of climate observations, and those are at great risk right now because we don't have the resources to have satellites at the ready and taking the kinds of information that we need," said Lubchenco, an Obama appointee. "We are playing catch-up."

Even before this, however, scientists had sounded a warning claiming that the USA was blinding itself to climate change by cutting funds to the environmental satellite programs run by NOAA and NASA. The National Academy of Sciences should have put the USA on notice that the environmental satellite network was at risk of collapse.

As if on cue, to prove the point, in February, 2009, a NASA satellite carrying instruments to produce the first map of the Earth's carbon emissions crashed near Antarctica only three minutes after lift-off. The satellite would have measured carbon emissions at 100,000 points around the planet every day, providing a wealth of data compared to the 100 or so fixed towers currently in operation in a land-based network.

The Obama administration has already taken steps to tackle America's flagging scientific lead. The president's economic recovery plan allotted $170m US (£100m) to help close the gaps in climate modelling. The NOAA is seeking an additional $390m in its 2010 budget to upgrade environmental satellites, and help make data more available to researchers and government officials.

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