Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

4/8/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Cryosphere Today has aggregated daily data on global climate change.

This week, Catholic Online had the opportunity to interview William Chapman, senior research programmer for the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Chapman maintains the Cryosphere Today webpages which are updated daily with data on the state of the polar ice caps and climate.

An image from Cryosphere Today show the extent of the Arctic ice loss over the years. The summer ice is much less, exposing more sea water to extreme warming.

An image from Cryosphere Today show the extent of the Arctic ice loss over the years. The summer ice is much less, exposing more sea water to extreme warming.


By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

4/8/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Cryosphere Today, William Chapman, ice, global warming, Arctic, webpage, monitoring, science

Chapman is a climate researcher, meaning he is a qualified expert in the field and has been aggregating data daily since the late 1970s.

COL: William, can you please tell us about yourself and what you do?

Chapman: I am part of a small research group at the University of Illinois that has been doing Arctic climate research for the past 30 years.  As part of this research, I started posting current ice and snow conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic on the Cryosphere Today website about 11 years ago.

COL: Can you share with us a little background on the Cryosphere webpages? What can we expect to find there?

CHAPMAN: The popularity of the Cryosphere Today has surprised us.  We get a lot of feedback from folks who appreciate being able to watch the day-to-day fluctuations of the ice and snow in the Arctic.  A few users have written us to tell us it is the first site they check with their morning cup of coffee.

The most popular products we provide are the images and animations of sea ice obtained from polar orbiting satellites.  We also include graphs of historic sea ice area and the departures from the daily averages.  We are presently adding several recently discovered sources of historic sea ice observations to our archive in order to put the recent decreases of Arctic sea ice into a broader historic context. 

COL: Those pages are rich with data. How much data have you accumulated?

CHAPMAN: We have daily data from satellites back to the late 1970s and at least some monthly observations back to the 1870s.  The monthly historic record is very reliable back to the 1950s but becomes more sparse in the early part of the 1900s.

COL: As an expert in your field, what conclusions are you comfortable with drawing from the data?

CHAPMAN: While Arctic sea ice in the winter months has decreased 5-10%, the summer sea ice is about 40% less than it was just a few decades ago.  The changes in summer are striking (see attached image).  This past summer, the sea ice area was the lowest it has been in recorded history, by far. 

Summer decreases in snow and ice are especially disconcerting because important climate feedbacks are in play during the summer months.  For example, as the temperature warms in the Arctic, the ice and snow melt.  Sea ice and snow are very reflective to sunlight.  The white color reflects much of the sunlight arriving in the Arctic surface back to space, keeping the Arctic cool.  As more sea ice is lost, it is effectively replaced by a very dark, very absorbing ocean.  Much more sunlight is absorbed by the dark ocean than the reflective sea ice.  This warms the surface even more and the feedback cycle continues.

COL: What's causing this? Is this natural or anthropogenic in origin, or is the verdict still out in your opinion?

CHAPMAN: While assigning attribution to these changes is a challenging problem, much of the research of the past decade points to a large anthropogenic contribution to the recent rapid changes in the Arctic.  Among the most convincing evidence are global climate modeling experiments that are performed with increased greenhouse gases and with stable greenhouse gases.  The experiments with steady greenhouse gases show level temperature and sea ice amounts in simulations of the past 50 years.  Experiments that increase the greenhouse gases to match the observed greenhouse gas increases show temperature increases and sea ice losses very consistent to what has been observed.  In my opinion, these experiments provide strong support to the idea that human influences, in particular the burning of fossil fuels and resulting increases in greenhouse gases, are responsible for the observed recent warming.

I realize there are those who are skeptical of any results from global climate models, but our group has done extensive evaluations of climate models and their performance simulating the recent Arctic climate.  While there is certainly room for improvement, in my opinion, they are sufficiently skilled to be trusted in basic experiments such as that described above.

COL: Why should we, as Americans living in the United States, thousands of miles away from the arctic, care about what happens up there?

CHAPMAN: There is a growing body of research showing that changes in the Arctic can have dramatic impacts in mid-latitudes.  In our own research, we observe that extensive sea ice loss during the summer can warm surface temperatures in the southwest United States and cool surface temperatures in the Northeast during the subsequent fall and winter seasons.  Weather patterns in the United States and Europe during this period are also altered.  The jet stream winds responsible for steering our weather systems from west to east are a result of the difference in heating from the equator to the North Pole.  As the pole warms, this equator-pole temperature difference gets smaller and, as a result, weather patterns adopt a more amplified, wavy pattern.  It was this type of extreme wavy pattern in the jet stream that aided in intensifying superstorm Sandy and moved it northwestward into the United States this fall, following the record low summer sea ice area.

COL:  Global warming seems to have some advantages, such as opening up the fabled northwest passage for sea-traffic. It's also greening the north with new trees and plant growth. It seems reasonable that residents of such frigid areas would have little problem  if their weather was a few degrees (F) warmer. Really, what's the problem when we look at it from that perspective?

CHAPMAN: Indeed, there are benefits to a warmer Arctic such as increased navigation opportunities   and growing season lengths.  The increased temperature and loss of sea ice brings its share of headaches to Arctic residents too.  In coastal communities in Alaska, increases in storm frequency, decreases in the buffering sea ice cover, and melting permafrost leave the coastlines vulnerable to erosion.  In fact, several entire coastal communities in Alaska are in the process of being moved inland because their towns are being swallowed by the encroaching Pacific Ocean and aided by a warmer climate. 

Inland communities do not escape the impacts of a warmer climate either.  Much of the buildings and infrastructure are built on permanently frozen soil in the Arctic.  As the temperatures warm above the threshold needed to sustain this permafrost, the underlying ground buckles, causing the buildings to crack and become unstable and uninhabitable.  To citizens of these communities, a longer growing season is the farthest from their minds.

COL: Isn't it true that the planet has been much warmer before? Certainly life didn't become extinct as a result of all that warming and the ice caps came back.

Paleoclimate records suggest periods when the Arctic was a little warmer than the present-day climate.  These warm periods correspond to earth-sun orbital variations that strongly favor a warmer northern hemisphere.  The difference between those warm episodes and the present-day warming trends are that we are presently experiencing a rapid warming in the Arctic during a period where the earth-sun orbital variations are inconsistent with such a trend. 

With regard to extinctions and adaptation to recent and projected changes, paleoclimate records indicate the rate of warming the Arctic is experiencing, and is projected to experience in the coming century, is much more rapid than warming episodes in the past.  The ability of species to adapt to such a rapid change is not known.

William, thank you for your time. We wish you the best as you continue your important work into climate research.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Green

Climate change underlying cause of chaos in Syria, Prince Charles declares Watch

Image of The 67-year-old prince, accused of


In an interview, Britain's Prince Charles says that failing address climate change result in the chaos that now grips Syria, plunging Europe into a refugee crisis. The prince will be speaking at a global climate summit in Paris next week. More than 100 world ... continue reading

Doomsday for Rhinos: White Rhinos facing extinction - ONLY 3 remain on Earth Watch

Image of It's too late, barring a scientific miracle for the northern white rhinoceros, however. The final three of this breed reside at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a preserve in Kenya.


Nola, one of four remaining northern white rhinoceros on Earth has been put to sleep. Suffering from a lengthy illness, Nola was put down at the San Diego Safari Park this past weekend. Once the three remaining northern white rhinos at an animal preserve in ... continue reading

Excited for El Nino? Don't be, here's why... Watch

Image of Although surfers have had to contend with more sharks, the surfing has been better. For the rest of So Cal, the eagerly awaited El Nino will bring a nasty surprise.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The El Nino continues to rage in the Equatorial Pacific, now reaching nearly six degrees Fahrenheit above normal. The hot blob of water is already affecting weather patterns and the Southwestern United States can expect a wet winter. The caveat of course, is that the ... continue reading

Will the 2015 Leonid meteor shower produce the storm of the century? Here's your guide to viewing Watch

Image of A picture of the 1833 Leonid meteor storm.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In one week, Earth will pass through a stream of cosmic debris that will produce the Leonids meteor shower. Here's everything you need to know about the shower and how to view it. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The Leonid meteor shower happens every year around ... continue reading

What the heck is a cryovolcano anyway? NASA announces discovery of ice volcanoes on Pluto Watch

Image of The New Horizons image of Pluto. Far from being a boring, icy world with few features, Pluto is a surprisingly complex world full of surprises.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

What the heck is a cryovolcvano and why does Pluto appear to have them? These are questions that NASA is attempting to answer following surprising new information revealed by the New Horizons flyby mission. At least two cryovolcanoes have been spotted and NASA thinks ... continue reading

Antarctica is gaining ice, and why that doesn't mean global warming is false Watch

Image of A Snow Cat vehicle, used in an expedition to Antarctica in 1957-58. Scientists continue to study the last pristine continent on the planet, to learn what it can teach us about the rest of Earth.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A new study from NASA concludes that Antarctic sea ice increased between 2003 to 2008, contrary to popular belief. These gains, all in East Antarctica, are expected to offset losses in West Antarctica. However, this discovery should not be taken to mean that global ... continue reading

World's rarest whale caught on camera for FIRST time ever and you won't believe your eyes! Watch

Image of The world's rarest whale was caught on camera (Salvatore Cerchio).


The world's rarest whale, which was previously believed to have completely died out, was caught on camera in Madagascar by a team of biologists. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Omura's whales are extremely rare, so rare that scientists don't know how many still ... continue reading

San Ramon, California breaks unbelievable earthquake record Watch

Image of San Ramon, California (not pictured) breaks earthquake record (AP).


Twelve small quakes have hit San Ramon, California within eight hours on Tuesday. Most were 2.0 and under and may set a record for the most earthquakes in the same area. The record sits at Alamo, which saw 351 earthquakes within a 42-day time in 1990. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

Hurricane Patricia is now the most powerful storm ever recorded, and it's about to kill a lot of people Watch

Image of A fisherman checks his boat ahead of the arrival of Patricia.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Screaming hot sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have been spinning off storms all summer, sending tropical storms and small hurricanes into the Eastern Pacific. This year has seen a record number of storms. Now, a category 5 hurricane, Patricia, is about to ... continue reading

X-ray technology proves that California's forests irreparably traumatized by drought Watch

Image of Biologist Greg Asner insists that there is still hope.


Using X-ray technology, biologist Greg Asner took an expedition to see the effect the ongoing drought had upon California's forest ranges. Peering down from a plane at 6,000 feet, Asner found that things were far dire than previously predicted by the Forest ... continue reading

All Green News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • MIRACLES DO HAPPEN: Days-old baby girl buried alive pulled to safety ...
  • St. Andrew: Saint of the Day for Monday, November 30, 2015
  • Daily Readings for Monday, November 30, 2015
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • GRAPHIC IMAGES: Islamic extremist shown being BLOWN UP while making ...
  • CRYBABY KILLER: Islamist State fighter breaks down in tears after ...
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 10:9-18
9 that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 4:18-22
18 As he was walking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 30th, 2015 Image

St. Andrew
November 30: Andrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a ... Read More