July 1, 2020
Economist Open letter
As a faithful subscriber for many years, I peruse your magazine in search of facts and wince where I see politics leaking in. So, when you had a lead article on all the awful things that could happen to us, I leaped with joy shouting, “My kinda subject!” Alas, although your compilation does include some threats, however unlikely, there is one you are missing.
The doom and gloom I see is based on the observation that the Arctic Ocean ice is melting. I watch (https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/) and it looks to me like it changes on a daily basis, not so much the overall area with greater than 15% of the surface being ice but the amount and distribution of areas with less than 100%. It is of minor interest when the “Arctic Ocean will be ice free.” What matters is when there is open sea water over the North Pole say 100 miles across. At that moment, more heat will be absorbed in that place than anywhere else on earth by a factor of about 2. A normal thunderhead in Florida probably pulls its power from an area 100 miles across; the updraft at the pole will be pulling from the entire illuminated planet some 8,000 miles across or 80 times the diameter and 6,400 times the power. Air resistance is, say, the 4th power of speed. 4th root of 6,400 is about 9 so if a thunderboomer has a 70mph updraft, the updraft over the pole will be approximately the speed of sound.
Like a summer storm, this will make hail. There will be enormous precipitation. Much heat will be dumped into the stratosphere and the rest will naturally be drawn toward the Antarctic. Mountains might guide it over the American west. Or it might follow the already unprecedented precipitation in China. In that case, the weight of the hail – how deep is a glacier? A mile? Every child knows about mammoths frozen with unwilted flower in their GI tracts; fewer know about Grasshopper Glacier where the whole thickness of the glacier used to contain grasshoppers. Weight of evidence: a mile of super cold glacier can show up in a few hours. That’s a lot of weight. – such weight could deform the crust of the earth and rupture the Three Gorges Dam and a thousand others in China. Counting knock on effects, we could see a billion die within a week of today.
Enough doom and gloom? There’s more; another glacier will assault us every year until some intervention is devised.
It should not take but a few phone calls of a few minutes each, get the thinking of some meteorologists, and you have a nice little article, world fame if it comes and no penalty if it does not. What could be nicer?
M. Linton Herbert