Tomgram: William deBuys, The Parching of the West
Posted by William deBuys at 6:02PM, December 04, 2011.

The good news? While 2010 tied for the warmest year on record, 2011 — according to the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) — is likely to come in 10th once November and December temperatures are tallied. In part, this is evidently due to an especially strong La Niña cooling event in the Pacific. On the other hand, with 2011 in the top ten despite La Niña, 13 of the warmest years since such record-keeping began have occurred in the last 15 years. Think of that as an uncomfortably hot cluster.

And other climate news is no better. A recent study indicates that Arctic ice is now melting at rates unprecedented in the last 1,450 years (as far back, that is, as reasonably accurate reconstructions of such an environment can be modeled). As the Arctic warms and temperatures rise in surrounding northern lands — someday, Finland may have to construct artificial ski trails and ice rinks for its future winter tourists — a report on yet another study is bringing more lousy news. Appearing in the prestigious science journal Nature, it indicates that the melting permafrost of the tundra may soon begin releasing global-warming gases into the atmosphere in massive quantities. We’re talking the equivalent of 300 billion metric tons of carbon over the next nine decades.

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