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WARMING: On a wing and prayer

| December 29, 2010 9:00 PM

While I respect Cliff Harris' rights to an opinion, I also remember the proverb, "Everyone's entitled to their own opinions but no one has the right to their own facts." Mr. Harris claims, "The evidence is clear (that undersea volcanoes are melting the Arctic ice cap)." Then he must stand by his choice of facts' he has deliberately invited review of his evidence.

Central to his position is the concept that Arctic underwater volcanoes are heating the atmosphere. He supports that with a survey run by Robert Reeves-Sohn in the Arctic Ocean that found explosive volcanic events under the ice. Harris then argues that those volcanoes are responsible for the retreat of the icepack in the Arctic.

Unfortunately, the original paper in Nature does not support this hypothesis. In an interview with Live Science Reeves-Sohn says this, "We don't believe the volcanoes had much effect on the overlying ice." In fact, the team leader for the expedition specifically rejects the theory.

There is good reason to believe that the Earth is hotter now than at any time during the past 10,000 years. The University of Colorado at Boulder recently recovered a 10,000-year-old spear from ice that had been continually frozen since then. Craig Lee at the University of Colorado points out this heat wave is the worst since the last major ice age, "these things started melting for the first time, in some instances, in many, many thousands of years."

Harris also cavalierly dismisses Methane release in the Arctic. He asserts that Arctic regions absorb more Carbon than emit it. If true that's also dangerous because it saturates the Arctic Ocean with Carbon Dioxide. The fact, says John Acheson in Energy Bulletin, is that there is more than 3,000 times as much Methane as in today's atmosphere held in ice-like structures. According to the Arctic Council a rise of polar temperature of 10.8 F degrees would cause all of the Methane to melt. The last time something like that happened 55 million years ago, when it took more than 100,000 years for life to recover.

Harris is entirely right to argue that global warming is not uniform. Sadly, that there are cold patches doesn't invalidate human "weird weather." If you have a flask which is half full of boiling water and the other half with ice chips and spin it for a while there will be threads of hot and cold which will have violent interactions where they meet. Look at the atmosphere in the same way and include Arctic Methane to the mix. A catastrophe is imminent. When the dust settles it will be as bad as it was 255 million years ago, the worst known Methane event, far worse than 55 million years ago. Then 94 percent of land life died.

For the religious protecting the Earth is a holy duty. Non-believers should ask themselves the question, "If the Earth becomes uninhabitable where can we go?" I feel that if we're working in the 95 percent level of certainty it's wise to take advantage of the time we have to change our behavior. Remember, if someone gave you a hundred dollars and a free air flight but you know the odds are 19 to 1 that the plane will crash, are you going to take that flight?

JEFFREY E. BOURGET

Coeur d'Alene

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