Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Ice is Falling! Runaway Melt Mode! And You Should See What's Happening to Minnesota Trees!

"Greenland, Antarctic Ice 'in Runaway Melt Mode' "
The Associated Press, via FOXNews (Wednesday, September 23, 2009)

"New satellite information shows that ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica continue to shrink faster than scientists thought and in some places are already in runaway melt mode.

"British scientists for the first time calculated changes in the height of the vulnerable but massive ice sheets and found them especially worse at their edges. That is where warmer water eats away from below. In some parts of Antarctica, ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003, according to a paper published online Thursday in the journal Nature...."

Well, that's interesting.

I'm not sure whether the Nature journal article will be published tomorrow, and this is a pre-publication piece; or if it was published six days ago.

Either way, like I said, it's interesting.

I'm not going to start crying out, 'the ice is falling, the ice is falling,' though.

It's not that I doubt the data. It's consistent with a post from April 18, 2009 about conditions in Antarctica. Ice is breaking off the 'western' part of Antarctica, like it does every 10 to 50 years - and getting thicker elsewhere.

This AP article is a pretty good read, though - and shows what sort of data we can collect these days. As for the conclusions: there's a old adage in academic circles, "publish or perish."

Academics, Show Biz, Shakespeare, and The Matrix

A professor's career depends, in large part, on how many papers he or she can publish, and how well they're received. In that respect, it's sort of like show business: you're only as good as your last review.

In one of my fields, English, I think that 'publish or perish' pressure was part of the force behind papers and articles showing how Shakespeare didn't really write Shakespeare. The underlying truth is that William Shakespeare's plays were commercial productions.

William had a financial interest in the Globe theater, and didn't mind writing material for the actors. This was before international copyright laws, so the Bard of Avon did his research, found plays written in other countries, took their characters and general outlines, and came up with commercial hack-work like Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear.

Some of Shakespeare's plays are, demonstrably, re-writes of earlier works: which would have remained in richly-deserved anonymity if Shakespeare hadn't applied his considerable linguistic and dramatic talents to reviving them.

Some of those 'Shakespeare Didn't Write Shakespeare' pieces used the sort of logic that would let you say that "The Matrix" is just a remake of Kronos. (Well? They're both about robots, aren't they?! Sort of?)

Change Happens - Deal With It

There's a reason that you won't find too many recipes calling for fresh trilobite.

That's because none of the 20,000 or species of trilobites are around - and haven't been for around 248,000,000 years. I'm no expert - but I don't think that SUVs had anything to do with the Permian extinction.

The point is that change happens.

Runaway Defoliation and the Hummingbird Feeder

Right now, runaway defoliation is devastating central Minnesota's ecosystem even as I write. Although some trees are still green, even they show signs of wilting; many trees are no longer green, and leaves are falling uncontrollably from their branches; and some trees are completely bare!

If this alarming trend continues, soon there will not be a single leaf on any tree!

Sound silly? I hope so. Here in the northern tier of states, we go through this sort of thing every 365 days or so, starting sometime around the autumnal equinox. Some areas have a tourist trade centered around folks coming to see the fall colors.

The annual change of seasons happens so fast, and is so (comparatively) regular, that people can hardly help but be aware of it. We've become aware of an 11-year cycle in our sun's energy output; and there are tantalizing indications of long climate cycles, taking thousands to millions of years to run their course.

About the runaway defoliation that's denuding Minnesota's trees - and halting their contribution of oxygen to Earth's atmosphere - I'm not all that worried. I've been through this cycle dozens of times.

And, I'm quite certain that I didn't set off this cataclysmic ecological change by putting extra nectar in the hummingbird feeder, at the beginning of this month.

Related posts: Background:
More about change and getting a grip, at:

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