Nancy's Almanac, Jan. 15, 2013: That sinking feeling - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 3:00 am
Nancy's Almanac, Jan. 15, 2013: That sinking feeling

• Click here to watch a trailer of the film "Chasing Ice."

***

Imagine watching the lower half of Manhattan slowly tip over and fall into the sea.

That's the sort of jaw-dropping image shown in "Chasing Ice," a documentary on the world's disappearing glaciers.

Of course, it's not Manhattan slipping into the ocean — instead an iceberg as wide and much taller falling away from its parent glacier and rolling into the slushy sea along Greenland.

It's an unsettling image for what it represents — planetary change.

The filmmaker, noted nature photographer James Balog said he made the documentary so that the public at large could see what is happening in remote corners of their world.

The film runs through Jan. 24 at Film Streams in Omaha.

Ancient glaciers are canaries in the coal mine of climate change, Balog said. As numerous studies have shown, their rapid disappearance is unprecedented in recorded history.

Additionally, ice borings taken from glaciers reveal the ancient past and show us how the air has changed over the last 800,000 years. The results have been startling. The air we and all living creatures are breathing is unlike any over that entire period.

Until industrialization, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere bounced between 180 parts per million and about 280 parts per million, according to climate research.

Current measurements taken of the air show concentrations reaching 400 ppm and rising. What's more disturbing is that the Earth's climate warms and cools with carbon dioxide levels. In the decades ahead, the Earth, if it behaves as it has in the past, could rapidly unveil weather outside our understanding.

Climate change advocacy groups sponsored free tickets to the film last weekend in Omaha and Lincoln.

An overflow crowd turned out for a post-film discussion in Lincoln, according to Lisa Lee, an attendee. In Omaha, moviegoers crowded into the Blue Line Coffee after the Sunday evening showing and talked about science, politics and the media. The Omaha discussion at Blue Line was organized by David Corbin, a University of Nebraska at Omaha public health professor emeritus.

Among those addressing attendees at the Blue Line was John Pollock, a meteorologist who is retired from the National Weather Service.

Pollock pointed to the ice borings as pivotal in convincing people like himself that the rate of climate change is extraordinary and beyond what would happen naturally.

“Ice cores turned around our understanding of what has happened,” he said. “I'll be honest with you, until about 20 years ago, things did not look that serious to me and other meteorologists. That's the straight truth of it.”

A grimmer picture has emerged as it dawns on people how fast the world is changing — and that accelerating change has been locked in by past inaction.

“Nobody really knows how it is going to play out,” he said.

The event was sponsored by Citizens Climate Lobby, the Nebraska chapter of 350.org and the Missouri Valley Sierra Club.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, chasingice.com

The trailer for the documentary "Chasing Ice."

Contact the writer: Nancy Gaarder

nancy.gaarder@owh.com    |   402-444-1102    |  

Nancy writes about weather, including a blog, Nancy's Almanac. She enjoys explaining the science behind weather and making weather stories relevant in daily life.

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