To the delight of Al Gore and the rest of the Gaia groupies, scientists at the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Colorado are predicting that the North Pole will be completely free of ice this summer. The apocalyptic headlines already are starting to appear.
"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important," says the center's Mark Serreze. "There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water."
From a media standpoint, this is another sign of the apocalypse—proof positive of man-made climate change. But we've heard this before.
In August 2000 the New York Times ran a piece claiming the pole was free of ice for the first time in 50 million years, long before SUVs roamed Earth. As earth scientist Patrick Michaels noted, "It was retracted three weeks later as a barrage of scientists protested that open water is common at or near the pole at the end of summer."
As reported in the June 26 edition of ScienceDaily, a research team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) has uncovered evidence of massive undersea volcanic eruptions deep beneath the ice-covered surface of the Arctic Ocean.
"Explosive volatile discharge has clearly been a widespread, and ongoing, process," according to the WHOI team.
The WHOI researchers found that evidence of a series of strong quakes and eruptions as big as the one that buried the ancient city of Pompeii took place in 1999 along the Gakkel Ridge, an underwater mountain range snaking 1,100 miles from the northern tip of Greenland to Siberia.
Their first glimpse of the ocean floor 13,000 feet beneath the Arctic ice through visual and sonar images showed an ocean valet filled with flat-topped volcanoes over a mile wide and hundreds of feet high that remain active. They're not like Mount St. Helens or Krakatoa, but more like the less bombastic, oozing Kilauea variety that slowly built the Hawaiian Islands.
Robert Sohn, WHOI geophysicist, lead author and chief scientist of the July 27, 2007, Arctic Gakkel Vents Expedition, estimates that exploding mixtures of lava and gas were expelled at speeds of more than 500 meters a second.
Sohn says the large volumes of CO2 gas that belched out of the undersea volcanoes likely contributed to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Is it possible that it these eruptions, part of an "ongoing process," have played a part in whatever melting there has been of the Greenland and Arctic ice sheets?
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