With the news that a second massive ice sheet (4 times the size of Manhattan) broke off in the Arctic, this time from Greenland's Petermann Glacier, you might think people would be getting a little panicky over recent scientific reports that both our oceans and our atmosphere are warming at unprecedented rates.
But there seems to be little reaction. One reason is that scientists, by nature, are extremely wary of making definitive conclusions about any findings to the press. Large glaciers have broken off before — the last big one was in 1962, and so it is impossible to say with 100 percent scientific accuracy that the break is specifically due to "global warming." In 1962, when the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf broke apart, it may or may not have been due to a couple of then record-breaking warm winters. 1958 and 1959 saw unseasonably warm winters (about 0.4 degrees warmer than usual) but in 1963 the temperatures dropped back down to normal. It could have been a solar flare. It could have been seismic activity. Or perhaps the mass had grown to the point where it had to break. No one knows.
But the situation now is very different. The average January temperature over the past decade was nearly 0.6 degrees above normal with a record-breaking 0.9 degree rise in 2007 and 0.7 degree rise this January. If you scroll through NASA's Land-Ocean Temperature Index, you don't have to be a scientist to see the wild warming trend that started in the '80s and is now hitting uncharted territory.
The new NASA report issued last month shows that 2010 has set a record for the first six months both in terms of atmospheric data and oceanic readings. The study also saw the lowest level ever recorded for Arctic sea ice in June. Rafe Pomerance of Clean Air Cool Planet has this to say (via Washington Post):
The 2010 temperature data is evidence that the planet is continuing to warm. The absolute numbers indicate that the earth's climate is moving into uncharted territory, as reflected by the massive retreat of Arctic sea ice.