ICE ON FIRE: A FAREWELL TO ARTIC ICE
Seminar with the world's leading sea ice expert Peter Wadhams
The seminar celebrates also the opening of the new “Climate change” track of the M.Sc. in Environmental and Land Engineering of Politecnico di Torino, officially launched on September 30, the first M.Sc. degree in Europe with a specific focus on technical and engineering problems arising as consequences of climate change.
Prof. Patrizia Lombardi, Pro-Rector of Politecnico di Torino, Prof. Rajandrea Sethi, Head of Department, and Prof. Francesco Laio, scientific manager of climate_change@polito project, will briefly introduce the speaker.
PETER WADHAMS ScD is Emeritus Professor of Ocean Physics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, and was formerly Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute. He is also Professor at the Università Politecnica delle Marche and, since September 2019, Visiting Professor at Politecnico di Torino. Since 1976 he has run a research group concerned with sea ice physics and climate change, with extensive field work (54 expeditions) done using submarines, AUVs, icebreakers, aircraft and ice camps.
PRESENTATION OF THE SEMINAR BY THE SPEAKER
“I have been studying Arctic sea ice since the 1970s, and in that time the ice cover has retreated so that its volume in summer is only a quarter of what it was in the 1970s. Its composition has changed so that nearly all of the ice is young, less than a year old, and only a small amount of older ice remains. The consequences of this retreat are enormous for the climate of the planet as a whole. The loss of the white ice surface results in a reduction in the fraction of incoming short wave energy from the sun that is reflected back into space - causing global warming to accelerate, with the effect being calculated as adding 45% to the warming rate. The open water area in summer warms up, and in shallow water this causes the permafrost covering the seabed to thaw, allowing a vast mass of methane in the underlying sediments to escape to the atmosphere - the fear is that this could become a huge methane outburst, causing an even greater boost to global warming. The warm air now permeating the Arctic moves over the Greenland ice sheet, causing increased melting and an increased rate of global sea level rise, with terrible consequences for coastal cities and communities. And the warmer Arctic air distorts the course of the jet stream in the atmosphere, leading to extreme weather events of heat or cold which are disrupting crop production in middle latitudes, reducing our food supply at a time when population is increasing rapidly. These are all disasters.
What can we do to overcome them, and to overcome global warming in general? Reduction in carbon emissions is essential, but is not enough in itself to bring us back to the stable climate of the past. The only was is to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by chemical means, followed by disposal of the absorbed material in some way. I outline the methods under development, including conversion of CO2 into artificial limestone for use in cement production, and deposition in deep rock fissures in Iceland. These analyses are found in my book "a Farewell to Ice" and also in the recent Leonardo DiCaprio film "Ice on Fire".”