In July I left to row across the Arctic Ocean. I ended up spending 41 days in a rowboat at sea without touching land once. We rowed 1000 miles from Inuvik Canada to Point Hope Alaska. Along the journey we collected plankton samples to predict future whale migrations, saw a polar bear and her cub, almost got crushed by ice bergs, frostbit my finger tips, lost 25 pounds and learned a lot about ocean rowing.
This week the pack ice extent was lower than 2007, the previously lowest year in history. There’s even a nice graph (below).
There’s two sides of this, here’s how I view each side:
Liberals love this graph. They print it, shove it in their leather briefcases, drive their V6’s to their corner java shop and use the graph to bemoan earth’s fate–note the conflict.
Conservatives say that it’s 2 year’s data in quick succession, too small of a data set. They recall the 1960’s concerns of an “ice age” because of quick data analysis similar to this. They also print this liberal-rag graph, hand it to one of their many children, drive their Suburban to McDonald’s, and forget they ever saw it because they are so busy feeding their family of 4–note the hilarity.
Now, scientists fear that although the data set is small, the result will differ from the 1960s supposed ice age. The reason is the positive feedback loop . When snow or ice melt, they are replaced by darker melt-water pools, land or sea. As a result, the Arctic surface absorbs more solar heat. This causes local warming, therefore more melting, which causes more warming, and so on. This positive feedback shows how even a small change to the Earth’s systems can trigger much greater ones. Which means it won’t be a blip.
As a data-jock, I feel this positive “feedback loop argument” above is a veiled attempt to hide from a lack of data.
As a citizen of low sea-level city, I feel that if we wait it’ll be too late.
That’s why I’m rowing across the Arctic Ocean to see it for myself, after which time I plan to make an opinion and spend the next years spreading that opinion far and wide.
I met the most prominent rower in the world today, Roz Savage. She’s the only woman to row across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, all solo. She wrote a book about her Atlantic Crossing. She was in San Francisco this week to prepare her boat to row across the Atlantic. She was super kind, gave me a bunch of tips and wished Arctic Row well. I wished her well also, her rowing expedition leaves in a couple days.
Our next house party is this Saturday. Eventbrite allowed me to plot the location of the tickets buyers on a map. Based on purchased tickets, people from across the world are coming over to our house for a drink.
Harvard Business Review has an excellent article on graphs this month (December 2011). Here’s a picture of the article I took in Los Angeles airport while on a trip for ArcticRow to meet Scott Mortensen. And here’s a PDF I found via google in the HBR Archives: Visual Statement.
About Project Graph: At Wharton we’re taught that everything can be graphed. This is my attempt to graph my goings-on.