Where even the earth is melting

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THE world is on the cusp of a “tipping point” into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday. 


“The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales,” says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. “Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started.” 

While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions.

Human-induced emissions now appear to have warmed the Arctic enough to unlock this vast carbon bank, with stark implications for international efforts to hold global warming to a safe level. Ancient forests locked under ice tens of thousands of years ago are beginning to melt and rot, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.

The report estimates the greenhouse gases leaking from the thawing Arctic will eventually add more to emissions than last year’s combined carbon output of the US and Europe – a statistic which means present global plans to hold climate change to an average 2degree temperature rise this century are now likely to be much more difficult.


Written By: Ben Cubby
continue to source article at theage.com.au

29 COMMENTS

  1. Yep! – The feed-back loops are starting to kick in!  – with methane releases, and peat fires in drying tundra which was previously permafrost!

    Peat fires could accelerate climate change: researchers – http://phys.org/news/2012-02-p… –
    For example, in 2007,
    Alaska’s Anaktuvuk River region experienced a “tundra fire” fuelled by peat that covered 1,000 square kilometres. Until then, fire had largely been absent from the tundra since the Holocene epoch—12,000 years ago.

    Drying intensifying wildfires, carbon release ninefold, study finds – http://phys.org/news/2011-11-w

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic….

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic….
    Methane is bubbling from lakes all over the warming Arctic. Here ecologist Katey Walter Anthony (at right) ignites a large bubble that was trapped by the fall freeze—then freed by an ice pick.

  2. Nah, we all know not a single society on Earth will do anything significantly about this and it’s probably too late already. Pretty sure China and India will drastically exacerbate the problem.

    Although this is a good example of  how not advanced we are in terms of abstract thinking and overriding short term benefits over a big picture. It’s always about habit.

  3.  That’s the feedback I’m talking about, the Mars vs. Venus scenarios.

    Glad you mention methane. If I remember correctly, the Permian extinction began with elevated methane, which then triggered release of carbon. (awesome pictures too)

    Heat will cause water to evaporate, producing reflective cloud cover. I wish that was modeled. It could indicate the Mars scenario, a “Snowball Earth”, or violent extremes, flipping back and forth. This is the issue with multiple feedback loops. It has a stabilizing effect, allowing a mean to survive variances from at least the sun, but it also threatens huge shifts.

  4.  Metamag  “Pretty sure China and India will drastically exacerbate the problem.”

    I try to be a little more positive myself, we can gear up quickly when we need to factories in WW2 only took months to go from making fridges to aircraft parts. 

    However I fear you could be right. 

    That said, China while I agree in the short term will as you say exacerbate the problem are doing far more than the most of the world (one of the advantages of having a dictatorship I suppose).  If we in the West are not careful they will dominate the market in renewable energy and we will be left out.  If only we could get countries to commit to getting rid of fossil fuels we could start an economic race to clean energy.

  5. This Is Not A Meme –
      Heat will cause water to evaporate, producing reflective cloud cover. I wish that was modeled. It could indicate the Mars scenario, a “Snowball Earth”, or violent extremes, flipping back and forth. This is the issue with multiple feedback loops. It has a stabilizing effect, allowing a mean to survive variances from at least the sun, but it also threatens huge shifts.

    We should not be complacent, as the “flips” seem to happen very quickly, but the stabilisation takes geological time to re-balance.
    Venus has a greenhouse-warning as do the wind speeds on the gas giants, but  I don’t think Mars is similar enough to Earth to have much to offer.  It is too small, too far from the Sun, and too cold.

    If I remember correctly, the Permian extinction began with elevated methane, which then triggered release of carbon.

      <br>Permian–Triassic extinction event - <br>- <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian%E2%80%93Triassic_extinction_event" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...</a><p></p>
    
  6. Metamag – Pretty sure China and India will drastically exacerbate the problem.

    While they are leading carbon polluters they are also leading the rate of construction of hydroelectric schemes (China) and Tidal turbines (India)

    India’s first tidal power plant gets the go ahead – http://www.gizmag.com/indias-f

    As part of the agreed upon terms of the MoU for a total of 250MW of future tidal power development, the initial 50MW project could be scaled up to more than 200MW of installed capacity. The project is expected to cost around Rs 750 crore (approx. US$164 million).

    Atlantis Resources Corp. also has plans to expand into China and South Korea, where it hopes to soon start commercial-scale trials. –

    Many Asian / Indian countries are dependent on glacial melt water from mountain icecaps for their dry-season irrigation water and much of their food production, so they may start to take matters a lot more seriously when the monsoon water arrives and departs as wet season floods, and then fails to arrive as a steady summer melt in the rivers they use for their water supplies.

  7. Mars has its carbon frozen to the ground, an example of a feedback loop run out of control (distance and size are not so much the issue as it once had oceans). A similar thing could happen on Earth in regards to water vapor, and some argue it has happened before.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S

    This is a cybernetic extreme, a possible outcome. As the output of the system goes into its extremes, it can nullify inputs that otherwise contribute to stability (ocean currents, ecosystem, etc). It depends on how the system breaks. The data we collect reflects this, and can be confusing if applied to an improper model. The occasional cool summers do not refute climate-change. It could be the loss of ice-sheets causes warming, not the other way around (albedo feedback).

    Whatever the cause of ice-sheets melting is irrelevant when concluding this will result in heating, which will result in increased water vapor. What we do not know is if this vapor will increase heating or promote global dimming. Heating can eventually lead to dimming, a self correction that can destroy the ecosystem. Of the runaway models, the Snowball Earth is quite likely, given it is a possible result of both possible outcomes.

    I dig the concern over CO2, but too little attention is paid to methane. As you point out, heating will result in greater levels of its release. There’s enough sitting on the bottom of the ocean to turn this planet into Venus.

  8. This Is Not A Meme
    Mars has its carbon frozen to the ground, an example of a feedback loop run out of control (distance and size are not so much the issue as it once had oceans).

     

    I am not sure what you mean about “distance and size are not so much the issue” on Mars. 
    Distance from the Sun and the Size (ie. gravity) are critical factors. 
    Mars lost most of its atmosphere and much of its heat of accretion, because of its small size. Its low temperatures are the direct consequence of its distance from the Sun. 
    Its CO2 atmosphere snows out as solid CO2 at the poles in winter, and drives the seasonal dust storms when CO2 warms, sublimes, and travels as a wind from one hemisphere to the other. 
    Its weather patterns are totally different to those of Earth.  It is very cold and dry.  Water is snow or a rock on Mars – and has been for millions (possibly billions) of years.

    Whatever the cause of ice-sheets melting is irrelevant when concluding this will result in heating, which will result in increased water vapor.
    What we do not know is if this vapor will increase heating or promote global dimming.
    Heating can eventually lead to dimming, a self correction that can destroy the ecosystem. Of the runaway models, the Snowball Earth is quite likely, given it is a possible result of both possible outcomes.

    Effects of dimming have already been measured in regard of industrial pollution from Asian countries.  There is no evidence that dimming will do more than slow the warming a little bit in the short term.  Increases in heat and water vapour will simply make the atmosphere more mobile, storms more powerful, and rainfall and floods more intense. Climate belts will also move geographically.

    A similar thing could happen on Earth in regards to water vapor, and some argue it has happened before.

     

    Ice-ages and “Snowball Earth” need a combination of levels of Solar radiation the Earth’s axial tilt and  variations in orbital eccentricity, in addition to atmospheric effects.  These give climatic Milankovich cyles.

    Milankovich cycles are small, slow but regular changes in the Earth’s orbit round the Sun, and the tilt of the Earth’s axis.[1]

    The dynamics are complex. The changes affect the ‘insolation’ (sunlight falling on parts of the Earth).
    This leads to cycles of climate on Earth, at about 21,000, 41,000 years, 100,000 and 400,000 years.
    This whole field is still under active research.

    Using applied mathematics, Milanković predicted that variations in eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth’s orbit caused climate patterns on Earth. – http://simple.wikipedia.org/wi

    Geologic temperature record – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G

    This Is Not A Meme – I dig the concern over CO2, but too little attention is paid to methane.
    As you point out, heating will result in greater levels of its release.
    There’s enough sitting on the bottom of the ocean to turn this planet into Venus.

    Not quite Venus, but Methane is about 10 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, but is naturally broken down in the atmosphere within decades, so its effects are much more short term than those of CO2.
    If ocean temperatures rise to trigger methane clathrate releases, we are wrecked – and probably extinct!
    However, oceans are massive heat sinks, so only warm and cool very slowly – with some trends taking geological time to start and to stop!

    The Perminan extinction is thought to have been caused by temperatures raised by increased CO2 , causing a “Clathrate bomb” methane release from the oceans and poles – boosting already high temperatures.

    Methane leakage, and releases from gas-fracking and oil drilling, is at present a serious concern, as these further boost short term temperatures, which can trigger feed-backs – on top of rising temperatures and rising CO2 levels.

  9. We can all contribute to discussion on religion and politics, as these are topics we can understand and play a part in….   and when we need further advice we refer to Richard Dawkins to seek a “professional” input….

    I am not sure anyone on this site fully understands the climate change issue, and it is a bit like the “flap of a butterfly wing”…. to understand half the truth does not help, and may actually be counter productive…  So, i tend to not believe half truth told by magazines who are interested in scaring people and selling ad space, especially when the writer is an “editor” who is trained to ask questions, but not necessarily understand the answers….

    We need a “Richard Dawkins” of environment to help us understand these half truths, so we can stay away from scare mongering and start helping ourselves, otherwise before we know it, we will be starting to talk about miracles and ghosts…..

  10.  Methane breaks down at a significant rate? ahhh. Okay, then we’re not misdirecting our attention. Here I thought cow farts would be the end of us all.

    As for Mars, its small size allowed its core to cool, dynamo dies, atmosphere thins, greenhouse effect diminishes, water vapor freezes, gets even colder, gasses freeze, colder, more gasses freeze. It is still a candidate for substantial greenhouse effect, despite its size and distance. Terraforming proposals include using propane which would warm the planet enough to evaporate the frozen CO2,  heating it enough to produce water vapor. As Venus is hotter than Mercury, distance is not as big of a factor as atmosphere (Goldilocks may not be as finicky as the Rare Earth model proposes).

    I doubt Man-made dimming is accounted for enough to make predictions, but even if it were cloud cover is not accounted for (given the models you provided in a previous conversation). AGW can cause greater cloud cover, which cools the Earth, thus diminishing the cloud cover. However, if thrown into extremes, the temperature disparity between the equator and poles increases, causing atmospheric currents to pull clouds away from the equator leaving the equator open to sunlight and more evaporation. Meanwhile, glaciers descend. This is a famous scenario I’m sure you are familiar with. Is there a reason you discount it? Has it been invalidated?

  11.  Voiceofarabi –

    “We can all contribute to discussion on religion and politics, as these
    are topics we can understand and play a part in….   and when we need
    further advice we refer to Richard Dawkins to seek a “professional”
    input….”

    It’s the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.  As climate science is a science carried out across multiple scientific disciplines it is entirely appropriate for it to be discussed on this site.  And as the deniers are using tactics similar to those seeking to push a religious agenda then this is even more reason to discuss it here. 

    “I am not sure anyone on this site fully understands the climate change
    issue, and it is a bit like the “flap of a butterfly wing”….

    I think you mean to say “I… don’t fully understand climate change”.  Don’t be making assumptions about the rest of us thank you.   I took the time to do some uni courses on it so I could understand it.  So while I am far from being an expert I have read a lot of peer reviewed papers on it and I do have a good understanding of the basics of it.  So speak for yourself. 

     “to
    understand half the truth does not help, and may actually be counter
    productive…  So, i tend to not believe half truth told by magazines
    who are interested in scaring people and selling ad space, especially
    when the writer is an “editor” who is trained to ask questions, but not
    necessarily understand the answers….”

    I’d suggest you go straight to the source.  Read the peer reviewed journals, read the IPCC reports.  Frankly looking at the actual data is far more frighting than reading an editorial.

    I’d suggest before you try to censor legitimate discussion about science on a site devoted towards science and reason you use your reason and read the science.

  12. I don’t wish to censor anyone, and that wasn’t my point.  I was trying to get an authority on the subject, that we “this community” trusts to add their two cents.

    I am glad that you are a scientist, but I don’t really know who you are, so I take what you say with a pinch of salt.

    And I am not really able to do this peer review thing, as I am not a peer or a scientist.  I may have little knowledge on some topics, but I know the topics that I know nothing about.

    Making calculated guesses is fine when you are playing black jack or the Lotto, but when it comes to life and death, I prefer to listen to someone who really knows their stuff, and who is also trusted by the community that i trust.

    No disrespect!!

  13. Wasn’t the Earth’s atmosphere almost completely CO2 at one point? How did it stabilize into what it is today. Seems like this is at odds with the tipping point hypothesis. Is the climate a positive or a negative feedback system?

  14. Keyboards
    Wasn’t the Earth’s atmosphere almost completely CO2 at one point?

    No – but it had a lot more CO2 in its pre-oxygen phase, and before the carbon was trapped underground in coal, oil, and gas.

      How did it stabilize into what it is today.

    That is a very long story – about 4 billion years long. (There are some links about temperatures earlier in this discusssion.)

    Seems like this is at odds with the tipping point hypothesis.

    Tipping points are a matter of physics and historical record.  No informed opinion doubts the science of them.

     

    Is the climate a positive or a negative feedback system?

    The climate has both positive and negative feed-backs which can be triggered by chemistry, physics and temperature thresholds. It is a complicated subject which requires detailed study – but methane, carbon-di-oxide and water-vapour are key atmospheric triggers.  The climate is a balance between Earth’s heating and cooling systems.I linked an explanation of Milankovich (astronomical) cycles here:-  http://richarddawkins.net/news… Subjects like albedo (from ice or clouds) and the greenhouse effect are well understood by climatologists.

  15. I can’t agree that the climate is a negatively stable system.  If that were the case the planet would have blown up ages ago.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  If the slightest perturbation to the climate causes a dramatic runaway process, then there’s no way it would have ever survived its past to exist as it does today.

  16. This Is Not A Meme

    As for Mars, its small size allowed its core to cool, dynamo dies, atmosphere thins, greenhouse effect diminishes, water vapor freezes, gets even colder, gasses freeze, colder, more gasses freeze. It is still
    a candidate for substantial greenhouse effect, despite its size and distance.

    Mars with a CO2 atmosphere already is subject to a greenhouse effect.  The point is, that at that distance from the Sun it is simply not going to raise its temperature above the freezing point of water.  Its size is relevant because its low gravity will not retain a significant atmosphere. 

    Terraforming proposals include using propane which would warm the planet enough to evaporate the frozen CO2,  heating it enough to produce water vapor.

    This is wishful thinking!  Terraforming Mars is not feasible. Even if temperatures could be raised enough to melt the water frozen underground,  it would cause massive surface subsidence and take thousands of years – making the planet pretty well useless for operations from bases there.  There is zero prospect of achieving an Earth like atmosphere or temperatures.

    As Venus is hotter than Mercury, distance is not as big of a factor as atmosphere (Goldilocks may not be as finicky as the Rare Earth model proposes).

    Mercury has an “exosphere” which is too thin to even call a proper atmosphere.   For most practical purposes it is a vacuum.  It will never be able to retain an atmosphere or a moon.

    Venus has a massively dense atmosphere and a massive greenhouse effect blanketing in the heat.

    The two are simply not comparable.

  17. AGW can cause greater cloud cover, which cools the Earth, thus
    diminishing the cloud cover.

    That is how weather and storm systems work.  The effects are not uniform. It may, or may not, increase or reduce cloud cover – locally or globally.

      However, if thrown into extremes, the temperature disparity between the equator and poles increases, causing atmospheric currents to pull clouds away from the equator leaving the equator open to sunlight and more evaporation.

    The movement of warm and cold air between the equatorial areas and the poles at various different altitudes – interacting with the Coriolis effect – ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/w… ) is what gives us our cyclonic weather patterns.  Increased Equatorial heating will move the climate belts towards the poles according to numerous models.  This will give more tropical droughts and deserts, but more intense rainfall in the high Latitudes. 

    You cannot simply assume that a warmer atmosphere will increase cloud cover.
    A warmer atmosphere can hold a lot more more water vapour before a cloud-forming dew-point is reached.
    It can also dump a lot more water as rain or snow.

    Meanwhile, glaciers descend.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “descend”!  The glaciers are sliding into the sea more quickly, which is shortening and thinning them as their overall ice volume decreases. There is no reason to believe that increased cloud and rain will increase glaciers generally.  The opposite is more usual.

    The present evidence in Greenland, is that increased warm air flowing North, is rapidly melting the glaciers and ice sheets.  Cloud cover in the Arctic reduces night frosts, increasing melt, ice temperatures, and also gives increased (warmer wetter) snowfall in some localities.

    This is a famous scenario I’m sure you are familiar with. Is there a reason you discount it? Has it been invalidated?

    I’m not sure what you mean by this.  It seems to generalise from misconceptions, and does not account for the global or seasonal variations, or the major effect of the currents in the air or oceans.

  18.  voiceofarabi –

    Firstly I apologise if I have caused you offence.  I am used to people
    who doubt the validity of climate change being well aware of the
    processes involved in the peer review which you response would
    suggest you don’t so I will get to that latter.  So my snappiness was
    clearly displaced in your case.  A few things from your response first.

    “I don’t wish to censor anyone, and that wasn’t my point.  I was trying
    to get an authority on the subject, that we “this community” trusts to
    add their two cents.”

    Science doesn’t seek or trust an authority see

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    It seeks to disprove itself what hypotheses remain are when backed up by evidence become the theories (the closest we ever get to facts).
     
    “I am glad that you are a scientist, but I don’t really know who you are, so I take what you say with a pinch of salt.”

    I never said I was I scientist I said I studied some climate change courses at Uni which I did.  I also don’t consider myself an expert but I have taken the time to read the science.  This is what I am suggesting you do.

    “And I am not really able to do this peer review thing, as I am not a
    peer or a scientist.  I may have little knowledge on some topics, but I
    know the topics that I know nothing about.”

    Yes you can!  Just to clarify.  Science involves a number of self correction mechanisms.  Much of this is founded on things like you don’t make statements about things in a positive way unless you have some evidence to back it up.

    So in the case of global warming climate scientist can’t just say the glaciers are melting world wide without having gone out an gathered the actual data.  They publish their findings in Peer reviewed journals.  That is journals read by other scientist (particularly in their field but anyone can read them).  To get published they go through a peer review process where their paper is reviewed by a number of anonymous experts in their field of study (their peers).  These peers must agree the paper is worthy of publication (says something new), and isn’t flawed.  If they find something wrong with the way the paper is written say the scientist hasn’t explained how they came to their findings or is being loose with their statistical analysis then the paper is sent back to be re-done. 

    If the scientist cannot fix it then the paper doesn’t get published.  This peer review process limits the amount of dodgy science that gets out into the public sphere.  It of course doesn’t mean what ever is published is correct, just that before publication the scientists work has been checked.  After publication other scientist who may have a different take or evidence to take down the opinion given in the journal will then publish papers criticising the initial paper or alternatively may have evidence that further backs up the initial claim.  Knowing this process will take place makes scientists who publish in peer reviewed journals cautious about claiming things without facts.  Also it tends to lead eventually to a consensus.  

    When a scientist publishes outside of the peer review process Ian Plimer is a good case in point in climate change.  Ian is a geologist who is also a climate change denier.  He is a genuine scientist who had an excellent reputation in science before he published a book on climate change denial.  Now the problem is not that he published a book on denying the existence of climate change.  The problem is a) he did not submit himself to the peer review process.  b) what he published was full of factual errors.  His reputation is pretty well shot now.  Those errors would never have got through a peer review process.  So if you are going to read about climate change its fine to read a popular book or watch a popular documentary like Al Gores, but you need to be prepared to read the peer review literature to check the facts are consistent or you are likely to be subjected to bias.

    You can subscribe to any of these journals.  Some are free and available on line, or you can go to any university library  search through any topic and read the peer reviewed findings of scientists.  So this is not just opinion, it is opinion based upon facts, heavily criticised before publication, attacked and torn down after if not able to justify their position.  And you can read it all for free if you care to go hang out at a university or for some cost if you wish to subscribe to Nature.

    If you are looking for an ultimate expert forget it.  No-one here is likely to claim such and if they do will be rightly torn to shreds on this site.  Look for yourself, don’t stay ignorant this is too important.  Read the science.

  19.  I’d like to split a hair. It is not gravity that holds the atmosphere, but rather the magnetosphere…  which Mars is not massive enough to maintain. Large bodies generate heat from tidal friction. The heat creates a dynamo by creating a spinning, liquid iron-nickel core. This internal heat also causes plate tectonics and volcanoes, even on a body a small as Io, due to Jupiter’s tidal influence. Mars once had a hot, liquid, dynamo core but it cooled (the prominent theories being too little mass and too far from the Sun to receive significant tidal heating), and then the atmosphere evaporated. Earth’s gravity is not sufficient to hold our atmosphere without the magnetosphere. The details of what you say are accurate to a degree, but it leaves out the mechanism. If it were more massive but had no dynamo, no atmosphere.

    “Mars lost its magnetosphere 4 billion years ago, so the solar wind interacts directly with the Martian ionosphere, lowering the atmospheric density by stripping away atoms from the outer layer.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M

    The terraforming speculations are not intended to make it habitable to walk around outside. The idea is just to raise air pressure so that people could get around without pressurized suits. That’s as for as current understanding allows for wild dreams. We have no theoretical models for making it livable. Another proposal involves detonating a ridiculous amounts of thermonuclear warheads at the south pole, which blankets the planet in radioactive poison… far from ideal.

    The scenario of an extreme ice-age triggered by AGW was a fashionable model in the 90′s. It’s relatively simplistic and does not account for many variables you mention. The basic premise is that the atmosphere gets simplified, no more biotic pumps and such (if those exist), just perpetual storms covering the current temperate zones. It might just be a relic now.

  20. Keyboards
    I can’t agree that the climate is a negatively stable system.  If that were the case the planet would have blown up ages ago.  It just doesn’t make any sense. 

    “Believing” does not come into it!  Planetary climate is not influenced by individual beliefs, unless the are linked to actions affecting the climate. Climatology is based on scientific evidence.
    It’s like forest fires. Small careless actions, or large scale mischief making, can trigger escalating events.

    If the slightest perturbation to the climate causes a dramatic runaway process,

    Human’s returning billions of tons a year of fossil carbon to the atmosphere for decades, is not a “slight perturbation”, it is a major impact.

    then there’s no way it would have ever survived its past to exist as it does today.

    The Earth has not always “survived” or existed in its present form.  It has radically changed many times with very large percentages of life forms going extinct as a result of the climatic changes.  If humans make the same chemical or physical changes to the atmosphere as previous natural calamitous events, we can expect similar results.

    The Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event, informally known as the Great Dying,[2] was an extinction event that occurred 252.28 Ma (million years) ago,[3] forming the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. It is the Earth’s most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species[4] and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct -  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… 

    Estimates of the number of major mass extinctions in the last 540 million years range from as few as five to more than twenty.
    These differences stem from the threshold chosen for describing an extinction event as “major”, and the data chosen to measure past diversity. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M

  21.  This is Not a Meme -   “I’d like to split a hair. It is not gravity that holds the atmosphere,
    but rather the magnetosphere…  which Mars is not massive enough to
    maintain.”

    You’re right and you’re wrong.  What you are saying about the magnetosphere is correct the cooling of the core caused the loss of of the magnetosphere and the solar wind basted the atmosphere.  However gravity is what holds an atmosphere on a planet.  Too low a gravity and the gases simply fling off into space.  This is why we are at peak helium.  Party balloons when released eventually pop and the helium just escapes to space.  At University doing some astronomy courses I had to learn the formulas for how much atmosphere a planet can hold based upon its gravity, temp etc.

  22. Hey Reckless Monkey,
     
    Thank you for taking the time to explain this to me, but I am your average guy (or possibly below – so forgive my sensitivity) and reading science normally sends me to sleep due to my poor abilities and nothing to do with the writers literary capabilities.

    I truly believe that none of the scientist, deniers or otherwise, are evil… I think people generally have a certain believe, and if they believe it is good for the community, they will try to get their point across (some scientist think Eugenics is good for the community, and it might be, but would i want that for people??, off course not!!, but for dogs and horses, we do it all day long…)

    My issue is not with science… my biggest concern is understanding the full picture, and I don’t think anyone today has the full picture on Climate change.  We all know it is happening (you have to be deaf and blind not to notice the changes) but we don’t have a full understanding of it.

    The scientists who developed the drug Thalidomide, did it for all the good reasons, but there are people out there today suffering the effect of half baked “true science”…

    We need a group trusted people to tell us how much they understand of this global warming, and more importantly, how much they don’t know, and what that could mean to the average person!!

  23. I’d like to split a hair. It is not gravity that holds the atmosphere,
    but rather the magnetosphere…  which Mars is not massive enough to
    maintain.

    The magnetosphere, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M… ), certainly gives some protection from the Solar wind, which would breakdown our oxygen and it also gives protection against radiation which is damaging to life.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi

     It is gravity however which is the prime force in retaining the Earth’s atmosphere. 

    Large bodies generate heat from tidal friction. The heat creates a dynamo by creating a spinning, liquid iron-nickel core.

    Tidal friction (even with our large Moon), is only a minor heating factor on Earth.  Earth’s heat balance is primarily from its initial heat of its formation, and from Solar radiation. Tidal drag does affect the “stirring” as you suggest, but the convection and the Coriolis effect are major drivers.

    This internal heat also causes plate tectonics and volcanoes, even on a body a small as Io, due to Jupiter’s tidal influence.

    The tidal factors are:-  the size and proximity of affecting gravitational fields (Earth + Sun + Moon) and the rate of rotation. Io is close to the massive gravity of Jupiter.

    Mars once had a hot, liquid, dynamo core but it cooled (the prominent theories being too little mass and too far from the Sun to receive significant tidal heating),

    The major difference between Mars and Earth, is the size of the planet, the distances from the Sun, and Earth having a large moon in a close orbit.

    and then the atmosphere evaporated.

    Mars has lost most of its atmosphere, by beinglost to space because of low gravity, swept off by the Solar wind, and frozen out and buried in its ground.

    Earth’s gravity is not sufficient to hold our atmosphere without the magnetosphere.

    That is not correct.  The magnetosphere protects the chemistry of our atmosphere, not its existence.

    The details of what you say are accurate to a degree, but it leaves out the mechanism. If it were more massive but had no dynamo, no atmosphere.

    That is not correct.  Venus ( where the Solar wind is more forceful) has no magnetosphere, but has a massive atmosphere.

    The ionospheres of weakly magnetized planets such as Venus and Mars set up currents that partially deflect the solar wind flow, but do not have magnetospheres, per se.

    The magnetosphere is caused by the movement of electrical currents in the outer core of the earth. The outer core is of a liquid state while the inner core is of a solid state due to the immense amount of pressure it experiences.
    The Magnetosphere is nothing but the magnetic field that prevents the solar winds, or highly energetic particles that come from the sun’s corona from completely depriving the earth of its oxygen.
    If the magnetosphere did not exist, then Earth would not be able to sustain life.
     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M

  24.  

    The terraforming speculations are not intended to make it habitable to
    walk around outside. The idea is just to raise air pressure so that
    people could get around without pressurized suits. That’s as for as
    current understanding allows for wild dreams. We have no theoretical
    models for making it livable. Another proposal involves detonating a
    ridiculous amounts of thermonuclear warheads at the south pole, which
    blankets the planet in radioactive poison… far from ideal.

    I have looked at terraforming proposals.
    Attempts at terraforming would simply create thousands (or tens of thousands) of years of climatic upheaval and surface disruption which would make travel difficult and planning unpredictable.

    Humans would need suits for breathing and radiation protection anyway as well as to protect Mars from bio-contamination.

    Human bases are the way forward – and there are viable proposals for those.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  25.  

    This Is Not A Meme
      The scenario of an extreme ice-age triggered by AGW was a fashionable
    model in the 90′s. It’s relatively simplistic and does not account for
    many variables you mention. The basic premise is that the atmosphere
    gets simplified, no more biotic pumps and such (if those exist), just
    perpetual storms covering the current temperate zones. It might just be a
    relic now.

    This was popular with the media from the 1950s, but was never a widely held scientific view.

    A change in the gulf stream could bring coastal Europe’s temperatures more into line with those in Labrador, but that is not an “ice-age”!

    There will be future ice-ages with the next one probably in about 50,000 years, but Global-warming climate-change, is on a scale of decades and centuries, not (initially) tens of thousands of years.

  26. Much thanks, to Reckless Monkey too.

    I pay attention when reading on these things, and have received this mistaken impression of the magnetosphere on multiple occassions. I wonder if this is a wide misconception from popular explanation. Knowing what to google for now, I see you are right.

    Surprised to find something in pubmed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu

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