Starting with the ice, arctic ice sheets have both thinned and reduced in extent. Our northern hemisphere winter is just getting started, but the sea ice extent remains lower than average with a particularly low extent in the Chukchi Sea (yes, the ocean home of whales, seals, polar bears and walruses). The oil companies were finally pulling out of leases for deep water drilling in this area off the coast of Alaska after the last administration withdrew new oil and gas leasing there, but now that that action has been reversed under T, the companies are again pressing to reduce regulations and hoping to drill more oil and gas wells in this area to fuel even more global warming.
And, not surprising, Greenland’s glaciers are melting more each year and later in the year– a melt spike in September 2017 that was the largest ever recorded so late in the year. Good info on Greenland and great graphics at https://nsidc.org/greenland-today/
On the other hand, it turns out that at least some of that water is being retained for some time in streams and lakes within the ice. Since it is not ALL flowing directly into the sea right away, sea level rise might be a bit slower than predicted… unless it isn’t. Really great photos at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/05/climate/greenland-ice-melting.html (I recommend a look if you have access to a computer)
While the Antarctic is also experiencing lower sea ice and faster melting than normal, with an unexpectedly large new opening the sea ice cover in the Weddell Sea, called the Maud Rise Polynya (a Polynya is defined as a stretch of open water surrounded by ice), and as the sea ice retreats in the southern summer it is now a large embayment in the ice. This is the lowest ice extent seen in that area of the Antarctic.
Then there are the fires you have probably all been following more closely, particularly those of you in California with one of our largest historic fires ever still burning in Ventura/Santa Barbara (just 65% contained as of Dec. 22) and the devastating fires in Sonoma and nearby counties in October. Certainly wildfires have always occurred but these are far worse due in part to the prolonged drought which killed trees and other vegetation providing even more fuel to the fire. And some local activists are trying to track the impact of the fires on all the oil and gas wells and seeps in the area… smoldering oil seeps make for dirty air indeed.
Meanwhile the governor throws around catchy phrases like “the new normal” – although he seems to understand that climate change is making this all much worse, he continues to support more and more oil and gas drilling and fracking throughout the state…. As of course does the new administration in DC. Is this just hypocrisy mixed with greed? Or some more insidious form of greed+ denial – which lead us onto this path back with the start of the industrial revolution? Too late to change that now, but I can’t help thinking it is too bad the saboteurs (who threw their shoes into the machinery to destroy and protest this inhuman forced labor) did not win the day.
A little bit of good news to end the year, on the water front (AKA “melted ice”): The California water board investigation into bottled water giant Nestle/Arrowhead found the corporation is taking water it doesn’t have rights to, therefore it is unlawfully draining forest lands of needed water. This long and detailed article laying out the history of this particular issue is worth a read. While this investigation is not the last word on the subject it is a hopeful step in the right direction. We need clean water for our ecosystems and no more plastic bottles!