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Redefining “glacial” change…

This week I chanced upon two articles on global warming that emphasized the accelerating nature (as observed by scientists) of the phenomenon. Those who think that they may not live long enough to see catastrophic effects of global warming could very well be wrong.

As a photographer of nature, and as someone who was trained in the sciences, the rapid and accelerating effects of global warming on glacial, arctic, and Antarctic ice cause me to wonder whether we are indeed approaching the “tipping point” predicted by some scientists. The effects also cause me to wonder how long the people who do not “believe” in global warming, out of ignorance or greed, can remain in denial.

One of the things that I always have liked about science, is that science itself does not care what you believe. Neither does nature. Jump from a precipice and argue with gravity as you accelerate to earth – it will be a short argument, and gravity will “win.” :-)

The first article describes the fact that a record amount of Greenland’s ice sheet melted this summer and that the Northwest Passage is open for the first time in recorded history. One NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) climate scientist, after reviewing his own data suggested that the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, i.e., less than five years from now.

Today’ article reported on the AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting now occurring in San Francisco. Although some scientists expected a slow and linear response to global warming, scientists have observed, instead, a fast and accelerating response. The scientist Lonnie Thompson, from one of my “alma maters” (The Ohio State University), described the phenomenon he studied as “fast glacial flow.” The rate of retreat of the Jacobshavn Ice Stream, a glacier on the west side of Greenland, nearly doubled between 2000 and 2003.

The most challenging aspect of a human response to global warming that I see is the necessary cooperation of a large number and variety of political and economic systems world wide. I understand that biological and physical systems can be “knocked out of balance” and that biological cultures sew the seeds of their own destruction.

I will try to remain optimistic while remembering that the human race does not have a very good track record in coping with disasters in advance, or even sometimes afterward. Maybe we can even really “earn” our species designation, Homo sapiens (wise human). Perhaps, it will be one of our last opportunities to do so…

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. 

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