Nature is about to mock our stupidity


1. Antarctica’s major ice sheets. (Map by Ted Scambos, used by permission of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.)

A group of British scientists studying the effects of climate change on the Larsen C ice shelf in Western Antarctica (a research effort based at Swansea University and Aberystwyth University in Wales and known as Project Midas) observed that in the last two weeks of December the rift which is primed to dump more than 5,000 sq. km. into the ocean grew by a startling 18 km. (11 miles). Larsen C is a sheet on the eastern side of the long cape-like peninsula south of South America [#1]. The area of ice from the rift to the sea is a quarter larger than the area of Rhode Island.


2. Growth of the Larsen C rift as plotted by Project Midas.

The rift has been growing at an accelerated rate since 2011. The rift is now about 160 km. (100 miles) long, half the length of which has occurred since 2011.  Over that same time the rift has widen about 10 fold [#2]. In the first 11 months of 2016 it grew by 21 km. (13 miles), a length that was nearly achieved in the last part of December alone.

Glaciologist Professor David Vaughan, Director of Science at British Antarctic Survey, is quoted as saying in Science Daily“The calving of this large iceberg could be the first step of the collapse of Larsen C ice shelf, which would result in the disintegration of a huge area of ice into a number of icebergs and smaller fragments.” The instability of the area has caused Project Midas scientists to remove their camp.

When the ice sheet finally calves, it will expose additional parts of the ice sheet to erosion and the effects of the warmer waters. It will also “uncork” a large area, allowing additional flow of ice and glaciers into the sea to be melted. The long term effect, reported the Washington Post, could be the increase of ocean levels by 10 cm. (4 inches).

By my calculation, if the rift continues at the rate of the last two weeks of December, the calving might take place on Inauguration Day. That would be a perfect sign from Nature that we can elect willfully ignorant and arrogant fools, but their lies can only get them elected. It won’t solve any of the existential crises we face. In fact, given that the group that will soon hold executive and legislative power (and not much longer judicial as well) is the only governing body in all the world who claims climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by a cabal of scientists hoping to take a small amount of wealth from the plutocrats that now rule us, I can see no better performance for the Inaugural Ball.

They won’t notice it, of course, as they continue eating foie de bald eagle and powdered rhino horn, chuckling over their brilliant statesmanship.


Detail of rift in Larsen C photographed by NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft on November 10, 2016. The rift at this point is about 100 m (300 feet) wide. (NASA Earth Observatory.)

  1. Wonderful map and details, D. K.! I sent to Google and Twitter. Do we truly WANT to be a lost planet? The Earth That Was?

  2. Our mutual friend, Martha Stephens, sent this to me yesterday. I read it and was instantly overwhelmed with the stats, the map, and the accompanying commentary. It truly is a frightening time for the entire planet, not just the US as we face an inauguration that promises to be a nightmare that may last for some years.

    Knowing Larsen C could calve on Inauguration Day makes me smile and wince simultaneously (imagine what my face went through with that!). But your comment at the end, about the “Big Guys” eating foie de bald eagle and rhino horn made me laugh out loud. What a perfect visual to keep me going through January 20. Thank you.

    • Thank you, dak.

      I don’t think anything in my lifetime equals the disaster last November 8 produced. It is not just that the th epolicies they bring will cause untold suffering and misery to countless people inside and outside the U.S. No, it’s because it was a self-inflicted wound, perhaps mortal, in our body politic. Never have we elected such dangerously ignorant, arrogant, and viciously reactionary buffoons. I say this having lived in New York City since the 1970s and observing this swaggering, ignorant clown display himself solely for self-aggrandizement. You notice that those who knew him best, voted against him most heavily.

      This nightmare, I am afraid will last longer than a few years. The federal judiciary, from trial and appellate courts to the Supreme Court, will become hopelessly reactionary, lasting probably for the rest of our lives. With all power concentrated in the hands of a party that cares for nothing but staying in power in order to concentrate even greater wealth into the hands of their puppet masters, the very process of democracy will be at risk. And given that there seemed to be a wide ly dispersed feeling that preventing his election was not particularly important, I doubt there rally is any hope to dislodge this cancer.

      Only a major catastrophe that can be laid as the feet of this administration has any hope of dislodging them. And while there is a good chance that they will cause immense and numerous catastrophes, they are expert at blaming others, so I have no real hope that they will be held accountable.

      Every day I am filled with a hollow feeling of hopelessness. And they haven’t even begun yet. Dread, destruction and despair is what lies ahead. Happy New Year!

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