Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Twin Studies Show West Antarctic Ice Sheet Undergoing "Unstoppable" Melt; Marco Rubio Does Climate Clown Act at GOP Electoral Rodeo

View of Antarctica from Earth orbit. I'm not sure to what extent this satellite image has been altered / enhanced.

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As reported in The New York Times (with three of the four images added from other sources):

Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.

Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.

The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.

Antarctica temperature changes over 50 years as reported by NASA in 2009. It shows the warming in West Antarctica.

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"This is really happening," Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA's programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. "There's nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow."

Schematic diagram of ice loss in Antarctica with discharges and drainage lines shown in shaded circles referenced to 10 Giga-tons (i.e., 10 billion metric tons).

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Two scientific papers released on Monday by the journals "Science" and "Geophysical Research Letters" came to similar conclusions by different means. Both groups of scientists found that West Antarctic glaciers had retreated far enough to set off an inherent instability in the ice sheet, one that experts have feared for decades. NASA called a telephone news conference Monday to highlight the urgency of the findings.

Full story here.

In terms of effects, Dr. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine who led one of the teams, said that the six glaciers draining into the Amundsen Sea region could raise sea levels by 4 feet and possibly triple that amount over the next couple centuries if other nearby glaciers are destabilized.

BTW, Andy Revkin is having a fit because some media outlets used the term "collapse" in reference to that portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Above: Andy Revkin's idea of when it will be OK to say "Antarctica's ice sheets are collapsing."

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Meanwhile, over on the GOP Plantation with its Big House Insane Asylum, Sen. Marco "The GOP Rodeo Clown" Rubio proudly and confidently declared that he doesn't "believe" in anthropogenic climate change (or in layman's terms, manmade global warming). This is the same pathetic GOP Senator from Florida who claimed he didn't know how old the Earth was because "I'm not a scientist, man."

As expected, Jonathan Chait had a terrific take on it.


For starters, I don't give a sh!t what Marco Rubio "believes" -- in the same manner that I don't give a fiddler's flip what the GOP Teabagger "base" believes on the topic. (John Oliver said it best to Bill Nye, who was recently in his own dustup on CNN with some rightwing female pundit.) However, I find it galling that in order get ahead politically in one of America's two main political parties, its political figures have to behave in this ignorant Know-Nothing manner.

Annual global temperature anomalies 1950 - 2012 (although I'm not sure the base period -- if it is a full 20th Century average or a subset of it) with warm ENSO, cold ENSO, and neutral years shown.

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I also hate that the mainstream corporate media -- think CNN and the Sunday morning (in the late, great Bartcop's wonderful phraseology) Meet the Whore, Face the Whore, & This Whore talk shows -- feel the need to treat the subject as "he said / she said," and in which "truth" is somewhere between the two polar opposites (Ron Fournier style) or is unknowable.

*Usually involving non-climate scientists and the "no" side consisting of Lindsey Graham (R - Gay) and this-or-that rightwing think tank propagandist.

Again, I'm not even talking about the Fox News booby hatch bubble but rather the idiot mainstream media. By this I mean the Washington Consensus and Tim Russert. (On a tangentially related topic, I could not agree more with Glenn Greenwald's assessment of the late Tim Russert. As for Greenwald's U.S. visit unmolested by U.S. authorities, Benji "Drones Now!" Wittes must be beside himself.)

As for Rubio, he really is a pathetic and sad clown whose legacy a century now will be less than a footnote to history and the few historians who do come across him will laugh in amazement at the degree of American stupidity in the early 21st Century in one of its two historically great political parties.

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Speaking of Chait, he also had a piece on the same shared blog discussing the findings of Ben Highton, a political scientist at the University of California-Davis, namely, that the Electoral College in the past decade or so has taken on a strong pro-Democratic tilt. Highton wrote about his findings in two blog posts on The Monkey Cage blog on the online Washington Post: here (April 28th, 2014) and here (May 7th, 2014).

Probability histogram of electoral vote outcome if the 2016 popular vote is evenly split.

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Highton argues that in the event of a popular vote split between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, Dems have an much greater chance of winning the Electoral College -- 89 percent to 11 percent (see above chart) -- because of how the swing states are moving Democratic (especially Florida and Virginia). (Of note, a number of states are becoming more Republican -- but they were Republican to begin with, and so it has no Electoral College consequences.)

At this point, Repubs need to win the popular vote by 1.5 percentage points to have a 50-50 chance of winning the Electoral College (as shown in the chart directly below).

Estimated chance of Republican Electoral College victory versus Republican margin in national popular vote for 2016 election. The 50-50 point for the GOP requires a popular vote win of 1.5 percentage points.

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This is true EVEN THOUGH Repubs have a HUGE advantage going into the 2014 midterms because of a trio of factors: the usual crappy Democratic turnout in the midterms, Dems packed into urban areas while Repubs are spread vastly and thinly across America's hinterlands, and a severely pro-Republican gerrymandered House map. Oh, and on the Senate side, the Dems are defending seats in a bunch of Red / Southern states.

This is -- as Chait indirectly notes -- a very different reality than the world of the 1980s when it was thought Repubs had a "lock" on the presidency and Demos a lock on the House.

--Regulus

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