35,000 Walruses

The average male Walrus is something to behold – up to 11 feet long, 3700 pounds, punctuated with three foot tusks. Ponder 35,000 Walruses along a few thousand feet of Alaskan shoreline.

On September 27, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) captured the first image above during their annual aerial arctic marine mammal survey. Entwined along a one Kilometer beach near Point Lay Alaska, clustered Walruses represent a phenomenon known as “haul out”.
Hauling out – forced to rest on land rather than sea ice – hit scientific radar in 2007. Since then, diminished sea ice accounts for hauled out behemoths as the norm, rather than occasional exception.  In a perfect world Walrus spend 80% of their time at sea. Summer found females and calves along the continental shelf, feeding in shallow waters of the Chukchi Sea between Russia and Alaska. Over the last decade, escalating sea ice melt – an irrefutable consequence of warmer arctic climate – has radically altered Walrus behavior.
Pondering hauled out Walrus populations might not present itself as earth shattering news. Considering this trend in perspective of climate change is. Debating the cause of global warming is best left for another day – understanding the reality, regardless of whether your tent is pitched in the natural cycle or carbon emissions camp, is what matters. Global warming is real – a reality with tangible implications.
Before I continue – a link to earthsky explaining arctic and antarctic ice…
Climate change eclipsed science a long time ago – it resides in the arena of political buzz words, special interest propaganda, and conspiracy alarmists. Amidst all the hullabaloo, we seem to have forgotten our faithful barometer – nature. Free of ulterior motives, financial gain, political posturing or plain old denial – nature speaks unbiased truth to the state of our affairs.

Why Pole Ice Matters

Melting ice caps mean a whole lot more than rising ocean levels. Arctic Tundra, thawing permafrost, diminished ice packs – seemingly insignificant, yet crucial on a global scale. I found and linked to this wordpress site, one able to explain the balance far better than I could.


As critical as the Arctic might be, it’s Antarctica that has me pondering. Would you believe me if I told you Antarctica is responsible for global weather? How about being the source of ocean currents responsible for maintaining ocean temperatures within a degree of average at all times?

Hovering at a consistent minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit during the total darkness of six month winters (43 degrees Fahrenheit colder on average than the Arctic) Unprotected by land masses, pummeled by constant 100 mph winds courtesy the “polar jet” ( a product of warm tropical air colliding with cooler south pole air masses – a conflict producing massive storms up to 4000 miles across). Polar winds, fed by earth’s rotation produce upper atmosphere winds of 200 mph. At the same time, churning water around Antarctica all the way to the ocean floor.

This is where it gets interesting. At 29 degrees Fahrenheit water begins to freeze, accounting for Antarctica more than doubling in size during “winter”.  As sea water freezes, salt separates becoming dense, heavy “brine”. Billions of briny gallons slowly fall to the sea bed – an unseen ocean waterfall, flowing away from Antarctica and over the continental shelf, coming to rest several miles below.  Thanks to raging “Polar jet” circulation, brine barely has time to catch its breath before the “screaming 60s” (below 60 degrees latitude, the roughest seas in the world), send it packing for warmer waters.

Urged by relentless circular motion, dense brine begins to move. Finding warmer water towards the Equator,  it starts to rise, taking along rich nutrients and minerals from the ocean floor. Flows of deep sea brine follow prevailing winds – in a nutshell, regulating ocean temperature, providing nutrients for plankton blooms and acting as the global barometer keeping weather in check. Joining other ocean currents, rising, falling, becoming diluted on the way up – the coldest, densest water known to man regulates average ocean temperature within a degree.

Ponder this irrefutable fact – without Antarctica and the polar jet, we have absolutely no way of regulating weather. Everything we take for granted – seasons, tropical monsoons, snow pack maintaining glaciers – without exception, the result of ocean circulation patterns. Antarctica protects the world from wild swings in temperature, end of story.


My simplified  explanation of the process can’t begin to convey the importance of polar ice. Antarctica in particular plays a role vital enough to be called crucial to our way of life. We need to stop dickering over who or what is to blame and start grasping it won’t matter once the ice is gone.

A link to the state of Arctic ice….



A Picture Says a Thousand Words

As the first frost of winter strangles the last of my roses, I can’t help but ponder Arctic ice. Whatever side of the global warming fence you’re on – a picture says a thousand words. I’m not debating green house gas vs. natural climactic cycles. The result rather than the cause has me thinking.

Anyone who thinks the Arctic ice isn’t melting or that the problem will just go away should probably go and dig a deeper hole in the sand. Looking the other way won’t make it go away.

The photos, link, and excerpt below are from earthsky.org


These two maps, created from satellite data, compare the Arctic ice minimum extents in 2012 and 1984.

Arctic sea ice grows through the winter each year and melts through the summer, typically reaching its minimum extent – lowest amount – sometime in September. The extent can vary considerably from year to year, but in August and September 2012, sea ice covered less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other time since at least 1979, when the first reliable satellite measurements began.

Arctic sea ice, September 13, 2012. (See larger image) Image credit: NASA

Arctic sea ice, September 14, 1984. (See larger image) Image credit: NASA