A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

From Russia with Love: those melting moments.....

Before folk fall hook, line, and samovar through the melting Russian permafrost, I thought I should just, en passant, mention the following:

During what is called the Climate Optimum (note the wonderful, un-PC name) [also termed the Hypsithermal, or Altithermal - c.8,000 - 6,000 years ago], following the last Ice Age, temperatures were around 2 degrees C warmer than today, and the permafrost, of course, melted. Indeed, in some areas, it unfroze to a depth of 200 - 300 m, while vegetation zones migrated between 200 - 400 km north (some species may have migrated north by as much as 1,000 km). The position of the discontinous permafrost was restricted to what is now the southern permanent permafrost boundary. Permafrost disappeared entirely from certain areas, like Scandinavia, and probably also from the Urals. Indeed, the hummocky peat of current interest to the ever-hand-wringing Guardianistas was also partly created by this earlier, warmer period. Today, we have c.30% of the difference between Late Glacial permafrost and that of the Hypsithermal.

Yet, of course, we, and the world, are still happily here, Russian Will-o'-the Wisps notwithstanding.

A feel for time, and for Earth history, is a marvellous thing in keeping a sense of proportion. And, believe me, Russia could benefit quite a lot from some more melting moments (e.g., lots of cherry orchards and dead seagulls, while Summer Folk would become an even longer play. Good Gorky!). Anna Kareninas all round.

Philip, what with today's hot air over the Urban Heat Island Effect, not to mention the Russian meltdown, it's surely time for a wee dram. This bottle of Old MacTundra has a distinctly methanic bouquet.... Now where is that Pushkin?

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