Archive for the ‘Anthropocene’ Category

Another Antarctica Melt Warning

May 1, 2020

A brand new NASA satellite was launched. It is probing the surface of the planet thanks to six lasers. It sends millions of photons down, gets back in the average just 60 per pulse… And with exquisite electronics, compute. It finds where ice accumulates, etc. … Unexpectedly, it enables to see under water down to 40 meters, enabling to chart coral reefs (which are uncharted where water is less than five meters deep, because boats can’t get there, as it’s too shallow). In any case I looked at the map, which is below, and it was not surprising, except for one detail…

The Brand New Satellite ICE2 reveals where Antarctica is losing mass (deep red) and where it is acquiring some… due to warming: the more the heat rises, the more water storms carry, so the more it snows.

Thus ICE 2 will be able to monitor coral reefs, an unexpected bonus.

But it was launched to find out how fast ice is melting. What struck me is the two largest red regions in East Antarctica (to the right above). The upper one corresponds to the Denman glacier, see:

the lower red region corresponds to the Totten Glacier, the frozen gateway to the immense Aurora basin.

If those gateways fail, warm ocean water will sneak below the continent, melt 4 kilometers of ice. 

When the virus came, everybody was surprised. Nobody reading this site should have been. It would be like being surprised that the Launch On Warning (LOW) system failed and nuclear Armageddon started because of a short circuit: I have warned for years that this was a possibility.

The melting of Antarctica is a certainty, not just a possibility. the only question is when… and to “flatten the curve”…

So far Antarctica melting has contributed perhaps a centimeter of sea level in two centuries. Nothing much. Greenland contributes more. So far. One day soon, though, it will contribute several centimeters every few months… The time to stop it is now. As fossil fuel usage collapses in the present crisis, let’s make our utmost to keep it collapsed. For example both the importers and exporters of Australian coal should be struck. Enough with the toothless Paris accord, time for sanctions!

When sea level starts to rush up, one billion people will have to evacuate. Let no one say it was a big surprise…

Patrice Ayme


Antarctica Denman Glacier Quickly Undermined By Warm Water

April 6, 2020

The virus catastrophe was predictable and predicted, and so is the sea level catastrophe, presently unfolding, albeit in slow motion. The virus is virulently ongoing, and, in an healthy reaction, research in biology is ramping up. But research should be ramping up all over. Indeed, the sea is rising, and that, too, is a great catastrophe. It’s also a nonlinear catastrophe, like the virus: first slow, then exponential, because the speed of the effect is proportional to its extent. The poster child of East Antarctica melting down is the narrow outlet of the giant Aurora basin known as the Totten Glacier. Now it has a rival, the Denman Glacier. Warm water is going below the glacier into a previously unknown 1800 meters deep, 5 kilometers wide through.

Denman Glacier is a glacier 13 to 19 kilometers wide, descending north some 130 kilometers, debouching into the Shackleton Ice Shelf east of David Island, Queen Mary Land, East Antarctica. 

The Denman Canyon is immensely deep, the world’s deepest hole. As warm, 4 degree Centigrade water is the densest type of water, this relatively warm water is slipping below the glacier, melting it from below, and this situation is happening all around Antarctica and Greenland…The canyon under Denman Glacier was found by BedMachine Antarctica project (under the leadership of the University of California, Irvine) to be the deepest canyon worldwide. The bedrock being is 3,500 m below sea level: it’s twice deeper than the Grand Canyon. And soon it will be all water.

Problem: more than 4,000 meters of ice is piled up there, above that bedrock 3,500 meters below sea level. Thus, should Delman melt, much water would be added to the oceans. How much? 1.5 meters. Enough to flood all coastal cities, worldwide.A 2020 study reported Denman Glacier retreated 5.4±0.3 km over a 20 year period from 1996 to 2017–2018. So far, so good. However, the bedrock falls away quickly at that point. Hence the glacier will undergo a rapid, irreversible retreat, due to the presence of a retrograde bed on the western flank of the glacier and the likely presence of warm water in the sub-ice-shelf cavity.

Progression of warm water under East Antarctica Denman Glacier until 2018. The grounding line retreated 5.4 kms over 20 years. Water should now fall down another 700 meters pretty quickly. At some point, icequakes will shatter the whole undermined thing.

I have described the situation with the outlet of the giant Aurora Basin, the long and narrow Totten Glacier, a 300 kilometer long, 30 kilometer wide channel, below which warm water was found to have progressed much more than expected. At this point the ice-full canyon is mostly cut off from the sea thanks to all the glacial ice piled inside and atop the deep ravine. However, as the glacier’s edge continues to retreat farther and farther down the slope, warm ocean water will pour into the canyon, undermining bigger and bigger sections of the glacier, which will break off in spectacular icequakes.

The narrowness of the channel along which it is occurring and how much warm water from the deep ocean can be moved through it will control the evolution of the situation. Other outlet glaciers of East Antarctica are in a similar situation: glaciers at Vincennes Bay, Porpoise Bay, and the George V Coast. It is difficult to know their fate without the collection of more data.

Considering the present greenhouse situation, we should have a Miocene situation in Antarctica: much of it melted, or underwater. Because much of Antarctica is below sea level, crushed by kilometers of ice.

Trump said an infrastructure bill should go through, even if it’s not green… He is right, considering the virus situation… And, in any case, considering the improvement of technology, any technological development now is more green than what was done before. Plus, the fact is, the climate crisis will be solved by more technology… And only by that. Just like the virus. And for the same reasons as the virus.

Patrice Ayme


Australia As We Knew It, Is Gone

February 16, 2020

There is a world catastrophe going on. We started it. This is the greatest threat to the biosphere in 66 million years. “Climate Change” media call it, because they want to please the fossil fuel financial plutocracy which is smothering the planet. However, the climate is changing to the Jurassic… in a few decades (instead of millions of years). Species don’t have the time to adapt…. Except the real small ones, the viruses, bacteria, and countless parasites which kill trees by the billions. 

So how is this “climate change” going to manifest itself? Well, the first thing is that ALL the temperate forests are going to deperish, die and burn, roaring from winds as never imagined before. This just happened in Australia and Corsica: air tankers couldn’t fly. All this enormous burning will not just augment CO2, it will decrease oxygen. Already oxygen has disappeared from giant swathes of the ocean. At any time, the unstable methane ice on the Siberian continental shelf could erupt: there is more of it than all other fossil fuels.

So what are Australians doing? Getting wealthy by using and selling coal, to China, Japan, etc. Australians, per capita, per year, emit from usage or export, 80 tons of CO2. France’s, and the world average, is five (5) tons, 16 times less. Australia is hoisted on its own petard, and it burns.  

So, let me repeat to be very clear: this is not a question of “change”. This is a question of holocaust (= whole-burn), the greatest holocaust of the biosphere in 66 million years. And it’s not just plants and animals which will die en masse… 

Patrice Ayme


Lake Conjola, a seaside resort east of the capital Canberra. People had to flee into the sea, 89 houses burned. New Year Eve, Dec 31, 2019.


Let’s one chuckle, California, where the drought got re-started in 2020, is next…

The preceding was, word for word, a comment of mine sent to the NYT. My comment was censored (= barred from publication). Why? Same old, same old… Although my subscription costs is hundreds of dollars a year, and just went up, because the Times told me, it was searching for truth… The New York Times can’t have enough of blocking my comments… and stealing the ideas therein (what else? Didn’t like my, correct, usage of the word “holocaust? Or is it because I implied the media was cooperating with the fossil fuel + financial plutocracy conspiracy?) Here is the beginning of the New York Times article:

The End of Australia as We Know It
What many of us have witnessed this fire season feels alive and monstrous…

SYDNEY, Australia — In a country where there has always been more space than people, where the land and wildlife are cherished like a Picasso, nature is closing in. Fueled by climate change and the world’s refusal to address it, the fires that have burned across Australia are not just destroying lives, or turning forests as large as nations into ashen moonscapes.

They are also forcing Australians to imagine an entirely new way of life. When summer is feared. When air filters hum in homes that are bunkers, with kids kept indoors. When birdsong and the rustle of marsupials in the bush give way to an eerie, smoky silence.

“I am standing here a traveler from a new reality, a burning Australia,” Lynette Wallworth, an Australian filmmaker, told a crowd of international executives and politicians in Davos, Switzerland, last month. “What was feared and what was warned is no longer in our future, a topic for debate — it is here.”

“We have seen,” she added, “the unfolding wings of climate change.”

Like the fires, it’s a metaphor that lingers. What many of us have witnessed this fire season does feel alive, like a monstrous gathering force threatening to devour what we hold most dear on a continent that will grow only hotter, drier and more flammable as global temperatures rise.

It’s also a hint of what may be coming to a town, city or country near you.

And in a land usually associated with relaxed optimism, anxiety and trauma have taken hold. A recent Australia Institute survey found that 57 percent of Australians have been directly affected by the bush fires or their smoke. With officials in New South Wales announcing Thursday that heavy rain had helped them finally extinguish or control all the state’s fires that have raged this Australian summer, the country seems to be reflecting and wondering what comes next.

The present 2020 Australian PM, Scott Morrison became Prime Minister by holding a lump of coal in Parliament, arguing. to great approval of Australian political class, that it was time to burn even more coal. “NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF, DON’T BE SCARED!”, he laughed around… Are this sort of people not just criminal against the biosphere, but also criminals against humanity?

Robyn Eckersley, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne who has written extensively about environmental policy around the world. “It does change everything — or it should… specifically, she said, the economy needs to change, not just moving away from fossil fuels, a major export, but also from thirsty crops like rice and cotton.

Building regulations will probably stiffen too, she said. Already, there are signs of growing interest in designs that offer protections from bush fires, and regulators are looking at whether commercial properties need to be made more fireproof as well.

The biggest shifts, however, may not be structural so much as cultural.

Climate change threatens heavy pillars of Australian identity: a life lived outdoors, an international role where the country “punches above its weight,” and an emphasis on egalitarianism that, according to some historians, is rooted in Australia’s settlement by convicts.

Since the fires started, tens of millions of acres have been incinerated in areas that are deeply connected to the national psyche.

… Smoke may be more of a catalyst than flame. For much of the summer, a fog of soot has smothered Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. In Sydney alone, there were 81 days of hazardous, very poor or poor air quality last year, more than the previous 10 years combined. And until the recent rains, the smell of smoke often returned.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, Australia’s most famous tech billionaire, called it part of a broader awakening.

“It’s bringing home the viscerality of what science and scientists have been telling us is going to happen,” he said.

There’s unity in that, as so many have seen climate change up close and personal. But there’s also inequality. The air filters selling out at hardware stores last month cost close to $1,000 each.”


P/S: NYT published my comment above, well after this essay was published. By then, with a 24 hours delay, nobody read my comment, but NYT can claim I was not censored: Pluto mission accomplished!



Reevaluation Of Values: Science Has Become A Moral Obligation

January 31, 2020

Well, it was bound to happen. A massive pandemic progressing so fast it affects all of humanity. Humanity has modified considerably the natural ecology: by increasing wealth of its population, China has four times more travellers than ten years ago. In its booming human population, contacts are much more frequent, enabling the evolution and explosion of much more virulent viruses, and other microbes. Besides the gathering global warming provides microbes with new ecological niches in which defenses against them have not been evolved… and will take more time to evolve than microbes take themselves to evolve: it’s a question of size. Microbes are more microscopic, thus simpler to change while staying viable. 

The solution is of course to fabricate a vaccine within weeks, not months (except it can’t be done: candidate vaccines already exist, but it will take a long time to improve them so that they are safe and efficient). Thus, we need much more investments in fundamental biological research. Having preliminary results on the nature of the virus, already, is encouraging.

SARS, MERS were among the now seven types of Corona Viruses known. They are named thus, because they form a crown.

This situation with corona viruses is a particular case of a much more general problem: humanity is messing up its nest,  while, at the same time, booming in population and travelling. This brings increasing opportunities but also increasing dangers. The solution is to push research to solve these problems ever faster, fast enough to avoid catastrophe. Thus, we have to invest ever more in fundamental research, because it is intimately tied to basic the pursuit of civilization, and hedonism itself: only thinking harder and deeper will enable us to keep on pursuing basic rights like life and happiness. 

Earth, we have a problem. We are now beyond 10,000 official cases, in China alone. And the virus has spread to more than 20 countries, thanks to air travel.

At this point the lethality and contagion capability of the virus is not known enough to estimate how bad the pandemic will get. But, if not this one, it’s clear a future one will get much worse… for ecological reasons…

Fundamental research in science and technology is not just what it used to be, a possibility, a calling, or contributing to civilization and honoring the human spirit. The very success of this enormous human population and the Anthropocene it has created has turned fundamental scientific research into a moral obligation.  

Patrice Ayme



P/S: Researchers have already studied the genome of the new coronavirus and found the proteins that are crucial for infection.


P/S 2: If this Coronavirus does not develop in a humongous pandemic this time, then next. As I tried to say, it’s a matter of ecology: we made the ecological advantage of microbes considerable, all of a sudden. Giving antibiotics to meat animals doesn’t help. Yes, antibiotics. In the viral context. I don’t know about the Coronavirus, but 75% of cases of flu are accompanied by a bacterial infection. Moreover, the flu acts like AIDS, killing 90% of macrophages in lungs… So ANTIBIOTICS works against the (consequences, and co-infection of) flu… (Official CDC conclusions, 2017, under Trump…)
Coronavirus, like the flu, kills by pneumonia…

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