Opinion

No Worries, This Only Has Implications for the Entire Climate of Europe

When ice melts at the poles, it sends freshwater into the ocean. This is worse than it sounds.
IMAGE [email protected] / GETTY IMAGES

There are several meanings for the phrase, “on the rocks.” One is a request for ice in your whiskey. This has been known to adulterate the whiskey if you drink it too slowly. And another is a description of what a shipwreck your life can become if you have whiskey too frequently, whether you have ice in it or not.

This is both. From the New York Times:

The collapse of the 450-square-mile Conger ice shelf in a part of the continent called Wilkes Land occurred in mid-March. It was first spotted by scientists with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and appeared in satellite images taken on March 17, according to the National Ice Center in the United States…According to the National Ice Center, the largest fragment of the Conger shelf after the collapse was an iceberg, named C-38, that was about 200 square miles in size...

...In mid-March an atmospheric river, a plume of air heavy with water vapor, swept into East Antarctica from the ocean to the north. It resulted in record-setting warmth in some locations, with temperatures as much as 70 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal for this time of year. The warmth could have led to more surface melting of the Conger ice shelf, helping to further erode its fissures and hastening its collapse. But Dr. Scambos said it was likely that the windy conditions resulting from the atmospheric river, combined with record-low sea ice around Antarctica this season, played a larger role.

The more ice breaks off at both poles, the more is likely to melt, dumping more freshwater into the sea, which can result in consequences even worse than diluting your whiskey. Among those consequences is rising sea levels around the world, but that’s arguably not the worst of them. From the Washington Post:

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The AMOC is driven by two vital components of ocean water: temperature and salt. In the North Atlantic, warm, salty water flows northward off the U.S. coastline, carrying heat from the tropics. But as it reaches the middle latitudes, it cools, and around Greenland, the cooling and the saltiness create enough density that the water begins to sink deep beneath the surface…In the North Atlantic, most important is the transport of heat northward, which has a moderating effect on Europe’s climate in particular. But the circulation can be weakened by making northern water more fresh and less salty, and therefore less dense. That’s what climate change — through a combination of more rain and snow, more melting of Arctic sea ice, and huge freshwater pulses from Greenland — is thought to be doing.

As is the case with so much about the climate crisis, we are learning everything on the fly, as the crisis grinds on and denial of its very existence remains a viable political strategy in too many places. It’s enough to drive you to drink. Straight up, no chaser.

FromEsquire US

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About The Author
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P. Pierce, lead for Esquire Politics US, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
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