22 January 2008

Soot and Dust May Be Responsible for 50% or More of Glacial and Polar Ice Melt

Since the earth's climate has stopped warming, at least temporarily, scientists will have to find another reason for polar and glacial ice melt.
[Thomas] Painter said dust's effects on snow are a global problem. The disappearance of central Asia's Aral Sea, for example, magnifies ecological devastation by sending plumes of dust off the dry lake bed. The dust blows east and settles in China's Tienshan mountain range, where it disrupts the snowpack's hydrologic cycles.

Old lake bed sediments document changes over time, in the way historic weather patterns are written into tree rings. Reading these sediments reveals a surge in dust emissions around the world, Painter said.
LA Times

A similar process is taking place in the Arctic:
Now a team at UC Irvine has signaled that dirty snow can be responsible for over 35 % of the Arctic meltdown, besides global warming induced by greenhouse gases.

Snow gets dirty due to soot from tailpipes, smoke stacks and forest fires which enters the atmosphere and falls to the ground. Dark surfaces absorb sun energy and get warmer, while bright white normal snow surfaces reflect heat back into space, cooling the air.
"When we inject dirty particles into the atmosphere and they fall onto snow, the net effect is we warm the polar latitudes. Dark soot can heat up quickly. It’s like placing tiny toaster ovens into the snow pack," said co-author Charlie Zender, associate professor of Earth system science at UCI.
Source

It is important to ascertain all the influences on Earth's ecosystem--both natural and anthropogenic. Recent discoveries of volcanic melting influences on Arctic sea ice, Greenland pack ice, and Antarctic glacial ice suggests that the mere fact of melting ice needs to be looked at more scientifically--and less politically. (hint to Al Gore)

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