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You can't believe everything you see: The North Pole isn't melting, yet

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Last week, a series of images went viral showing a supposed lake at the North Pole. Even for admitted global warming believers like myself, the images did not resonate well with me. We have since learned that the images are not from the North Pole and they're part of a normal phenomenon.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Jamie Morison, a polar scientist at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory, the images are not what the alarmists think say they should be. "This doesn't look particularly extreme," she commented.

It isn't. According to the scientists at UW, the shallow ponds of water are normal for the region at the height of the polar summer. They tend to form in August and even into September when temperatures there are at their highest.

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It's still quite cold in that region, and the ponds soon freeze back over.

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Many people do not realize that the ice cap at the North Pole moves a little bit each day, and this constant movement means that equipment placed by researchers at the North Pole will eventually be moved away as the year progresses.

What the images show is a fish-eye distortion of a pond that is about two feet deep and a hundred feet wide. The images were captured by the North Polar Observatory, which streams images of the polar region around the world in real time. The region photographed is in the Arctic, but isn't at the North Pole at all.

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Ridges seen in the distance look like mountains, but are actually parts of the ice shelf pushed together.

Scientists say that last year was the most alarming year for ice melt, with ice levels receding farther than at any time since satellite-based records were kept since 1979. This year looks like it will also come very close to historic lows.

Despite this, the ponds are a normal feature and are not a sign that the planet is warming out of control.

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Climatologists say these ponds form across the region all the time.

As a personal believer in global warming who has interviewed several people in the field, including a number of scientists, I find images such as these disconcerting because they come off as alarmist and misleading. They derail legitimate discussions of global warming with viral sensationalism.

After interviewing skeptics and believers alike, one thing is clear. Nobody knows with any great degree of certainty exactly what is happening or why. It is generally agreed that global warming is occurring as part of an overall macro-trend. It is also widely thought that humans are at least contributing to the phenomenon, but this conclusion is much more divisive.

In the United States, global warming is a very divisive issue, and skepticism is closely related to conservatism. Alarmism is closely related to the left. This is unfortunate because political bias interferes with discovery of the truth as both sides strive for their own agendas, and neither is interested in truth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world sees global warming as a significant issue. Even the Vatican has issued statements on the problem via the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Part of the problem in discerning the truth of the matter is that existing models simply cannot take into account all the variables that influence climate. Such models cannot make accurate predictions, at best they can only make generalizations.

It's glaringly obvious when we watch weather predictions on the news, then despair as despite decades of modern weather prediction, the weather turns out a bit different than forecast the day before.

This doesn't mean the science is all bunk, it just means the entire field is laden with complexity so great it is easy to cast doubt and aspersions on even the best science and dissent is guaranteed.

However I believe it is immoral for us to release mass quantities of pollutants into the atmosphere where they can cause harm to the climate and thereby people. Yet, living in Southern California, what do I do about it? Although I prefer to walk places, I still drive to work, especially in the summer heat.

In truth, it isn't fair for me to demand massive changes in lifestyle for millions of others when I myself don't do much about the problem. To be fair, I do conserve energy and I recycle, but I'm still an American and a consumer and I am certain my carbon footprint is larger than it should be.

What should we do remains a major question confronting us. I believe adaptation is the best short-term strategy. I hope that over the long term, we can develop better models and improve our understanding of climate and whether or not we can do anything to clean up the planet.

In the meantime, I'm not taking the rap for viral images of a melting North Pole, and neither should you.

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