Hang on a minute!

Physicist Steven Desch has come up with a novel solution to the problems that now beset the Arctic. He and a team of colleagues from Arizona State University want to replenish the region’s shrinking sea ice – by building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter, these would be used to pump water to the surface of the ice where it would freeze, thickening the cap.

The pumps could add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic’s current layer, Desch argues. The current cap rarely exceeds 2-3 metres in thickness and is being eroded constantly as the planet succumbs to climate change.

“Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice. In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly,” Desch told the Observer.

Desch and his team have put forward the scheme in a paper that has just been published in Earth’s Future, the journal of the American Geophysical Union, and have worked out a price tag for the project: $500bn (£400bn).

But geoengineering is wrong, isn’t it?

And if it isn’t wouldn’t we be better off spending $20 million (perhaps) on iron seeding the Southern Ocean to capture a billion tonnes a year of CO2?

32 comments on “Hang on a minute!

  1. Much melting of ice is due to particulate matter from coal power stations and container ship exhaust stacks .

    This settles on the ice and causes an increase in absorption of infra red .

    Given all the other problems which particulates cause , why don’t they legislate against it and in favour of existing innovative alternatives to common or garden heavy fuel oil ?

    Maybe because that would require TPTP to admit that anthropogenic CO2 is not the be all and end all they have been telling us it is for the last 30 years .

  2. “This settles on the ice and causes an increase in absorption of infra red ”

    Spray white or reflective paint–that would be cheaper still.

    If any of this nonsense were needed –.which it isn’t.

  3. Er….that’s not going to work, is it? If you’re pumping out water onto the ice it must be warmer than ice. So you’re raising the temperature of the air. So even if that water freezes, an equivalent amount of water, elsewhere, won’t.

  4. Not sure that it isn’t even worse than that, Tim. The problem, if there is a problem, isn’t the thickness of the ice but the extent. Open water has a lower albedo than ice so absorbs more solar energy. So to cool the Arctic you need to increase the extent of the ice. Cooler conditions would then lead to an increase in the ice-cap thickness. transferring heat from the deep water to the surface will raise temperature, so reduce freezing of open water. More solar energy absorbed. Positive feedback loop.
    Sounds like the sort of scheme you’d want to pursue to rid the planet of the ice-cap, permanently.
    But, then, I’m not a fizzysist, so what do I know?

  5. It would work in the sense that it could thicken the ice (although given that the Arctic ocean is 40% bigger than Europe, I think they might be underestimating the effort involved!). However, it won’t work at preserving Arctic ice because the recent reduction has nothing to do with temperature or ice thickness, it’s because the winds have changed direction over the past few years so as to push floating ice south out of the Arctic basin, instead of in. (Higher temperatures then result because the exposed sea surface absorbs more heat.) It’s a short-term weather effect, and nothing at all to do with global warming, which even the IPCC models predict won’t affect Arctic ice levels to the currently observed extent until about 2080.

    Thick ice will float south as easily as thin; especially when it has layers of salt embedded in it. There is a tendency for thick ice one year to carry over to the next year in those landlocked areas where ice persists, but since the ice area drops from 14 million km^2 to 4 million km^2 every year, it should be clear that most of the ice melts anyway.

    When ice freezes on the surface, it forms an insulating layer that slows further freezing – the white surface reflects rather than absorbing sunlight, it stops convection which reduces the rate of heat transfer, and ice has a pretty low thermal conductivity. Pump water onto the surface, and it will radiate its heat into outer space. The North Pole itself spends most of the year between -20 C and -50 C; there’s no shortage of cold, and a bit of extra heat from freezing the pumped water, let alone a degree or two of ‘global warming’, isn’t going to make a hell of a lot of difference.

  6. Quite a few engineering challenges as well given the extreme variations in temperature and wind. At a simple level how will they stop the water freezing in the pipes when the wind doesn’t blow?

    And $500bn? Apart from being an under estimate, they always are, it looks we’d better get on with that globalisation to pay for it.

  7. Won’t someone think of the polar bears?

    When Al Gore was born we still had 8,000 or so polar bears.

    Now, 68 years later and with all the global warming and sea ice melting, we only have 25,000 or so left.

    (“the official global population estimate for polar bears is now 22,000-31,000, the highest estimate in 50 years. “) Dr Susan Crockford, https://polarbearscience.com/.

  8. I was wondering where he was going to get all of this water from in the first place. As the majority of water on Antarctica falls as snow I cannot think there is much below the surface to be pumped up. And pumping seawater to where it would be needed is a none starter. It may well freeze at temperatures that Antarctica falls to but it will alter the freezing temperature of all of the rest of the ice as well so that it melts at a lower temperature when it does warm up. None starter for me.

  9. Of course if this works as advertised and you get thicker ice, then there’s a good chance you will get greater ice extent as well, which will increase the albedo leading to a colder arctic and an even greater ice extent.

    So, before you know it, Birmingham could be covered by a mile thick glacier again.

    Yeah, go for it prof.

  10. “Won’t someone think of the polar bears?”

    Yeah. We shoot 5% of the world population of polar bears every year. Which implies that if we stopped shooting them, the population would currently be increasing at 5% a year…

    “At a simple level how will they stop the water freezing in the pipes when the wind doesn’t blow?”

    By emptying the pipes?

    “As the majority of water on Antarctica falls as snow I cannot think there is much below the surface to be pumped up.”

    Arctic, not Antarctic.

  11. NiV, Thanks for correcting Daedalus. Underneath the Antarctic ice cap is mainly land (except for those ice shelves) but underneath the Arctic is an ocean typically 4 km deep. The ice is only a few metres thick, and submarines can pop up through it. What’s more, icebreakers (no, not the party with drinks!) break up the ice sheet, and no wonder it is more mobile than if you left it alone.

  12. NiV
    February 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

    “Won’t someone think of the polar bears?”

    You might want to try reading the whole post. It’s quite short 🙂

  13. I have mixed feelings about this, as with any hare-brained engineering project. On the one hand it’s completely bonkers; but on the other hand it promises to keep me gainfully employed (and on the taxpayers’ dime to boot, so 9-5 with no stress) until retirement.

  14. “On the one hand it’s completely bonkers; but on the other hand it promises to keep me gainfully employed (and on the taxpayers’ dime to boot, so 9-5 with no stress) until retirement.”

    It’s the equivalent of employing half the people digging holes and the other half filling them in. (Holes in the arctic ice, in this case!)

    It doesn’t make the world any richer, and there are plenty of more useful things for people to do – especially engineers.

  15. How about the key question? Would it do anything to increase the supply and decrease the price of potted shrimps? That’s my measure-of-merit for nautical suggestions.

  16. ‘solution to the problems that now beset the Arctic’

    The Arctic is not beset with problems. Engineers designing elegant solutions to non-existent problems. It’s what they do.

    ‘being eroded constantly as the planet succumbs to climate change’

    Succumbs to summer.

    “Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice. In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly”

    There is no danger of all sea ice disappearing. People saying there is are Gore stupid.

    AND . . . Arctic sea ice is NOT DESIRABLE. It would be in Man’s best interest if it DID DISAPPEAR!

  17. “The pumps could add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic’s current layer, Desch argues.”

    Arctic ice cap – that is the ice sheet that sits on land, is not the same as Arctic sea ice, which is ice which floats on the Arctic sea.

    The Arctic sea ice (extent) waxes in Winter and wanes in Summer and is primarily affected by sea currents, wind velocity and direction, underwater currents of warm water, with ‘global warming’ an un-measurable, contributory factor.

    Sea ice extent is measured in area not mass, and in places is as little as 15mm thick – actually less but anything below that cannot be detected by the satellites.

    This conflation of two different things is habitual in the ‘debate’ about climate. Climate change and global warming are conflated, as are global warming and Man-made global warming.

    The question anyway is why would we want to add an extra metre of ice on an ice cap that is 2km deep?

  18. When it comes to Arctic ice more than a few climate activists and scientists don’t know, or prefer not to consider, that the region features volcanic activity going on underwater.

    Occasionally you can see a focused event on satellite observations of ice coverage – a large, static and neat hole being melted out of the ice that persists for days. The deep water might be being kept warm by volcanic activity and then it wells up following shifts in the sea bed.

    Witchie said: “The ice is only a few metres thick, and submarines can pop up through it. ”

    A few nuclear subs doing the pumping would be more convenient, more reliable and probably a much smaller waste of money than wind turbines.

  19. The Arctic Ice Panic is a result of commencing satellite measurements in 1979 at the end of a long cold period and the beginning of a warming one, before that only anecdotes:
    Such as nuclear subs surfacing at the north pole in the 50s into clear water; the North Atlantic convoys supplying the Russian war effort via Arkangelsk on the Arctic Coast; Russian then Soviet explorations of the North Siberian coastline ….

  20. No offence, guys, but you are probably all talking complete nonsense?

    Timothy’s expert scientific contributor to this site (on anything related to climate matters) says so quite clearly here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/02/08/prior-discovery/

    Timmy has been for a while my prime – and possibly only – example of a sane libertarian, climate-wise. In that he has frequently advanced economic arguments on the basis of accepting the IPCC WGI science.

    And, it has to be said, in the face of opposition from his commentariat, who are stupid, almost to a man.

    That’s pretty clear cut to me? Perhaps we would be wise to wait for Doctor Connolley’s expert view before making any uninforned or “stupid” comments?

  21. Natural arctic ice is freshwater. The salt leaches out from the brash.

    Freshwater ice stays solid at warmer temperatures than salt ice.

    I haven’t got the Latin to do the sums, but the net effect of the proposal seems likely to be exactly opposite of desired outcome.

  22. Where for art thou, William Connelly? Come lighten our darkness with your torch of ‘truth’, we beseech you!

    *snigger*

  23. It seems to me that if either the northwest passage or the northeast passage become ice free we should use them for shipping, not close them down.

  24. So, before you know it, Birmingham could be covered by a mile thick glacier again.

    I was thinking this – how will they know when to stop? When they stopped they would then have thousands of fucking turbines corroding and leaking all sorts of shit into the ocean.

    Great job, twats.

    Seriously, who comes up with shit like this?

  25. Let’s assume for the moment that this would work. What the hell does it achieve? Thicker ice. That’s it. Why?

  26. Every single living thing, bar none, is made up of carbon based molecules. The more carbon available, the more life thrives. So, for once, Timmy has got the war on carbon right. Iron seeding will not sequester carbon in dead stuff like limestone. It will increase uptake of carbon by living things. Biomass. Good stuff.

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