Arctic System in Marked Decline

This blog is all about the observable and accelerating effects of sin on the functioning of our earth’s basic life-sustaining systems, and how that relates to Bible prophecy.  Put more simply, this blog points out a strong pattern in the cascade of bad environmental and disaster news around us, and relates that pattern to Bible prophecies of end-time events.

Teasing a pattern out of environmental events is not that hard — after all, all the news is bad (and has been bad for years).   And it’s not hard to link accelerating decay in our earth systems to impacts on human society culminating in increased disease, increased hunger, increased conflict, and increased economic disruptions.  Both the academic studies and the simply observable links are strongly present.  What can sometimes be a challenge, though, is to concretely identify the decline of an entire natural system over a short span of  time.  Here I refer to the systems that underpin life on earth that God put in place during creation — our oceanic system, our atmospheric system, our fresh water system, our food production system, etc.  Its not that the systems aren’t declining — they are and the long-term trends are very clear.  The hard part is taking striking events in the natural world and relating those to a specific system.  Part of the reason this is hard is because all of our earth systems are closely intertwined.  It is how they were created.  An event in one system significantly impacts all other systems, so it can be hard to tease out the situation of a single system.  Hard, that is, until the evidence is overwhelming.  And when we see a sudden and alarming decline in one system, we can be sure its effects will be felt in all other systems.

Such is the case with the Arctic portion of our cryosphere (the system made up of the frozen portions of the earth).  We are seeing a rapid and accelerating crash of the arctic system, and never has this been as obvious as the last few months.  At the same time, the trends of the last few months have never been as obvious as they are today.  In all my years  of closely observing earth system events and trends, I have never seen the Arctic as anomalously warm as it is today.  And by that I mean, I have never seen it so out of  whack as it is today.  Look at the anomalous temperature map below (courtesy of Climate Reanalyzer at UMaine) and you will see a few warm spots and a few cool spots around the world.  Then look at the Arctic region, and you see it is awash in abnormal heat.  A section of the Arctic the size of the western United States has pegged the top of the scale, so we know it is at least 20C (36F) warmer than usual.  But what really clinches it is the average temperature departure for the entire region.  Take a look at the regional numbers below the map and note that the entire Arctic region is 7.06C above normal.  That is a shockingly high number, higher than  I  have ever seen.  It is so high that it pulls the entire Northern Hemisphere average temp up substantially, which in turn pulls the average world temp up substantially.

Temp Anomaly Feb 22 2016

What we are seeing is an acceleration of the long-term trend of ice volume loss in the arctic.  The “volume” measurement is important because it shows not just the loss in width, but also the loss in depth over the years.  The trend, as reflected in this chart from the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center, appears to be unstoppable and, if that is true, will result in an ice-free summer arctic ocean in the next 10-15 years (or sooner).

Piomass Sea Ice Volume Feb 2016

The arctic was already dropping jaws this year (the Robert Scribbler blog did a fine summary piece and described scientists as “floored” by the temperature trends in the Arctic with “winter”).  In fact, in terms of ice extent (surface area covered), we were well into record low territory before this heat wave hit (as reflected in the Charctic graph).   In fact,  Arctic sea ice extent has  been on the wane more or less continuously since February 9, and this heat event will surely accelerate that trend.  It could be the sea ice extent high for the year was attained on February 9, which would be unprecedented.  If so, it will mark a new low.

Why is ice important?  Well, not least because a decay in one system affects all other systems, and so from what we are witnessing we can be sure the world will experience more disasters, more hunger, more conflict, more disease, etc., as the effects of sin continue in their inexorable progression.  Beyond that, the ice is a very measurable part of an Arctic system that is crashing (the massive fires in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia last year are another symptom of that crashing system).  And any further acceleration in any system crash bodes ill for the entire planet and tells us that the time we have left to work in is yet shorter than we think.

This is all bad news, so here is some good news:  In the last days the Holy Spirit will be poured out and the work of warning a distracted world will go forward by leaps and bounds.  Seeds planted long before will sprout, and work in areas that seems impervious to the gospel will flourish.  Courage, fellow Christians.  Keep your courage and your faith.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit has already started and the coming of Christ is not far off.  In the meantime, there is an abundance of work to do.

Scott Christiansen