Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Food security threatened by sea ice loss

The mission of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) is:
  (i)   to alert the world to the rapid retreat of sea ice;
  (ii)  to warn of the consequences; and
  (iii) to ensure measures are taken to cool the Arctic and deal with the consequences.

So far we have concentrated on the methane threat which has resulted from loss of sea ice and Arctic warming; this threat will be aggravated by further loss of sea ice and faster warming. However a second consequence concerns weather disruption, which is proving to have serious implications for food security. 

If you share AMEG’s concerns on this issue, we have produced an example letter for you to send to a government representative, urging action.

There is a growing realisation in the scientific community that our current weird weather, being stuck first on heat and drought and then on cold and wet, is due to the sticking or 'blocking pattern' of the jet stream - this in turn due to the Arctic sea ice disappearing and Arctic warming. It was front-page news in The Times earlier this week [1]. Also there's an article about it in the New Scientist [2]  (page 36):
"In summers with less sea ice in the Arctic... the jet stream slows down, it takes a more mazy path, with meanders that move around more slowly... stays in one place for weeks... weather is likely to become more extreme".
This deterioration of the climate is likely to become more marked as the sea ice disappears, which is happening faster than acknowledged by many scientists, including those at the Met Office. On 21st February, AMEG presented evidence to the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) for their hearing on “Protecting the Arctic”. In a subsequent hearing, this evidence was disputed by Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office, which includes the Hadley Centre. Then in early July, EAC published AMEG's rebuttal, in particular slating Professor Slingo for denial of the speed of sea ice retreat [3]. AMEG rubbishes all the Hadley Centre models on which so much government policy is based because they do not take into account the observations of what is happening to sea ice thickness and volume. The ridiculous optimism of climate change predictions from these models has engendered a false sense of security about the sea ice and methane, as if nothing need be done. However AMEG shows that geoengineering is vital to cool the Arctic, and the government needs to act, as a matter of national and global security.

Quoting from the appendix of [3]:
"One of the questions raised at our hearing on 21st February concerned what life would be like in 20 years’ time, i.e. by 2032. We have considered this in respect of different scenarios, depending on methane emissions. We estimate that the Arctic is warming at about 1 degree per decade, around five times faster than the rest of the planet, and this is mainly because of sea ice retreat and more open water to absorb solar energy. In 10 years, i.e. by 2022, PIOMAS volume data suggests that the Arctic Ocean will be essentially free of ice for 6 months of the year, and the Arctic will then be warming at about 4 degrees per decade. The Arctic temperature will be 5 or 6 degrees hotter than today. The disruptive effect on Northern Hemisphere weather systems will be traumatic, leading to severe food shortages for all and starvation for millions if not billions of people."
Please support us! On the web site you will find a template for a suitable letter to send to a government representative, such as an MP.


[1] The Times, front page, July 11th: “Endless rain flows from melting ice” (registration required)

[2] How global warming is driving our weather wild (registration required)

[3] Supplementary written evidence from John Nissen, AMEG

1 comment:

  1. My recent post at Arctic-News blog also warns about the threat to food security due to Arctic sea ice loss, linking to the work by Jennifer Francis, professor at Rutgers University; for more on her work, see Linking Weird Weather to Rapid Warming of the Arctic and this video.


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