Mt. Erebus, discovered by Captain James Ross in 1841 and named after one of Her Majesty's Antarctic discovery ships under his command, was first climbed on March 10, 1908, by a party of geologists and scientists from Ernest Shackleton's 1907-09 British Antarctica Expedition. The volcano is part of Ross Island off the coast of Victoria Land in McMurdo Sound. Mt. Erebus was the only known active volcano in Anarctica at the time, but "Scientists have just now discovered an active volcano under the Antarctic ice that 'creates melt-water that lubricates the base of the ice sheet and increases the flow towards the sea,'" according to Science Daily [via Watts Up With That].
When we awoke this morning to local and national newscasters' reflexive hysteria over the latest shocking, shocking revelation of the imminence of the end of the world, precipitated by greedy, all-powerful Western man's usurpation of the forces of nature, we knew they had it all wrong and rolled over for a few more minutes of shuteye. Upon arising, we headed for the blogosphere and soon got up to speed via Maggie's Farm, where The News Junkie sent us over to An Englishman's Castle, who in turn directed us to the wondrous website of ICECAP, the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, "portal to all things climate for elected officials and staffers, journalists, scientists, educators and the public."
"Although Antarctica warmed around the perimeter from 1982 to 2004, where huge icebergs calved and some ice shelves disintegrated, it cooled closer to the pole," according to NASAs scrumptious Earth Observatory website. "The area of strongest cooling [blue] appears at the South Pole, and the region of strongest warming [red] lies along the Antarctic Peninsula. [NASA map of Antarctic Temperature Trend 1982-2004].
ICECAP in its own words:
It provides access to a new and growing global society of respected scientists and journalists that are not deniers that our climate is dynamic (the only constant in nature is change) and that man plays a role in climate change through urbanization, land use changes and the introduction of greenhouse gases and aerosols, but who also believe that natural cycles such as those in the sun and oceans are also important contributors to the global changes in our climate and weather. We worry the sole focus on greenhouse gases and the unwise reliance on imperfect climate models while ignoring real data may leave civilization unprepared for a sudden climate shift that history tells us will occur again, very possibly soon.
"Last year when Antarctica set a new record for ice extent, it got no media attention," explains ICECAP Executive Director Joseph D'Aleo:
They focused on the north polar regions where the ice set record low levels. This summer when unprecedented anomalous cover continued in the Southern Hemisphere again no coverage. Then this report [the Chicken-Little one we so rudely awoke to this morning] in the news today. You probably saw it on your favorite network or internet news site (pick one, any one):
Let’s put this in perspective. The account may be misinterpreted by some as the ice cap or a significant (vast) portion is collapsing. In reality it and all the former shelves that collapsed are small and most near the Antarctic peninsula which sticks well out from Antarctica into the currents and winds of the South Atlantic and lies in a tectonically active region with surface and subsurface active volcanic activity. The vast continent has actually cooled since 1979.
"After we left the Ross Ice Shelf yesterday, we relocated to McMurdo Sound [where] we saw Mt. Terror and for the first time Mt. Erebus," writes contemporary Antarctic traveler Stefan Töpfer at World Signia. "The sound today serves as a re-supply route for cargo vessels and for aircraft that land upon floating ice airstrips near McMurdo Station. However, continuous occupation by scientists and support staff since 1957-58 has turned Winter’s Quarter’s Bay into a markedly polluted harbour."
"This was a sight so surpassing every thing that can be imagined, and so heightened by the consciousness that we have penetrated under the guidance of our Commander, into regions far beyond what was ever deemed practicable, that it really caused a feeling of awe to steal over us at the consideration of our comparative insignificance and helplessness, and at the same time an indescribable feeling of the greatness of the Creator in the works of his hand," wrote plant explorer Joseph Hooker, describing the reaction of captain and crew upon humankind's first sighting of Mount Erebus -- the world's southernmost active volcano -- in the austral summer [that would be winter in our neck of the woods, north of the Equator] of 1841 during the first of two excursions to the Antarctic Circle by Her Majesty's discovery ships Erebus and Terror. During that trip Hooker is said to have slept with a copy of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle account of his 1831-36 South American expedition. Plant Explorers.com explains the connection:
[The Erebus and Terror, during their second expedition begun in 1842] made it safely to the Falkland Islands by April the 6th, then on to Hermite Island where Joseph was eager to botanize ever since reading of Darwin's visit only a few years before. He found that the island's cool humid climate was the perfect environment for mosses and he collected over 100 species during his stay. His other discoveries on the island were perhaps more surprising to him than any of the strange and exotic flora he had seen so far -- a number of the most common plant species closely resembled, or even appeared to be identical to, plants from England. Thus began his lifelong studies of the distribution of species.
He had met Charles Darwin briefly before the expedition, but it was after his return that their true friendship grew when the two got together to compare notes. They would remain the closest of friends for the rest of their lives, often consulting one another while working on their theories -- Hooker on his theory on the distribution of species, and Darwin on the evolution of species.
"Lenticular clouds hover over Mount Erebus volcano in McMurdo Sound where massive icebergs from the Ross Ice Shelf are clogging the sea in Antarctica," says the caption of this US Coast Guard photo. "Technically known as altocumulus standing lenticulars [they] are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned at right-angles to the wind direction," according to Crystalinks.com, which notes that lenticular clouds have been mistaken for UFOs [because of their] characteristic lens appearance and smooth saucer-like shape."
We were struck with the contrast between Joseph Hooker's "feeling of awe . . . at the consideration of our comparative insignificance and helplessness" before nature -- or Darwin's equally awestruck "There is grandeur in this view of life" -- and the narcissistic arrogance and silliness of the Reverend Al Gore and his flock of anthropogenic-climate-change flat-earthers. ['Reminds us of the contrast between Abigail Adams's stalwartness and Michelle Obama's whining.] As we wrote in our post "There are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion":
Those "few who are capable of forming a judgment" but "hold their peace" are the doublethinkers of Natan Sharansky's "fear societies," whose failure to speak up facilitates the politically correct true believers' groupthink. Those who do speak up -- Sharansky's dissidents -- are dissed and ridiculed as the messengers of bad news. Informational and reputational cascades emanating from elite institutions drown out or shut out the voices of seekers of wisdom and truth.
How refreshing that knowledgeable dissidents like the experts of ICECAP -- we notice among them one of our personal faves, astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, as well as John Coleman, disillusioned founder of The Weather Channel -- are stepping out of the shadows. The media is a lagging indicator, but like Bugs Bunny running across the empty space, eventually they will look down and fall to earth. Science of Meaning's answer to the question "What Holds Bugs Bunny Up When He Runs Off The Cliff?" applies:
It is the human imagination which is now supporting and propelling the figure across the void. It is the creative force of the humorous imagination that has run the figure off the edge of physical space, and continued its progress in a line with human, rather than natural, logic. For, in objective terms, this scene constitutes a radical denial of the physical laws of the universe.
A radical denial of the physical laws of the universe. That explains a lot.
Update: Maggie's Farm links.