Mark Brandon is the Managing Partner of First Sustainable (http://www.firstsustainable.com), a registered investment advisory catering to socially responsible investors. In addition to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), he may opine on social venturing, microfinance, community investing, clean technology commercialization, sustainability public policy, green products, and, on occasion, University of Texas Longhorn sports.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Greenland Ice Cap Melting Faster Than Thought

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, researchers presented a paper showing that Greenland's rate of melting essentially doubled over the last 10 years, adding a volume of water to the North Atlantic equal to the volume of Lake Erie. While conceding that there may be a phenomenon at work that they do not know about, the prevalence of fast melting in all polar latitudes suggests that it is due to global warming.

The American press would like to resort to fear-mongering and evoke images of the movie "The Day After" where the whole earth froze in a matter of days (the Globe and Mail has a less hysteric take on it). It is true that the world's oceans would rise 7 meters if the ice cap melted, but that would take millenia, even at the current rate. What is not being discussed in the reports I read is the danger to the Gulf Stream. Cold water from the ice cap would push warm water and sediment down, effectively shutting down the conveyor that heats Europe. The result of global warming for Europe would be a massive cooling of their continent. Unlike the deluge featured in "The Day After", this could happen in a matter of years.

To give you an idea of how that would affect Europe, Rome is on the same latitude as Chicago. Paris is on the same latitude as Fargo. London is on the same latitude as much of the southern Greenland ice cap that is now melting. Agriculture would be completely disrupted and infrastructure designed to handle more moderate temperatures would be insufficient to protect residents from the elements. Today in Austin, we're expecting ice for the first time in 3 years, and the whole city is going batty. Imagine if this phenomenon lasted the whole season and covered a continent.

5 Comments:

Blogger Data Hoard said...

London is not on the same latitude as anywhere in Greenland. The southernmost tip of Greenland is at just under 60N. London is around 51N. Approximately the same difference as that between Washington, D.C. and Daytona Beach, Fla.

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