TIPPING POINT: The facts behind the fiction
Without giving away too many book spoilers, I thought I’d write a brief blog for anyone who may be wondering if there is any truth behind the themes in my action-adventure thriller TIPPING POINT.
Tipping Point, of the title refers to the point at which an irreversible melting of the Arctic’s ice pack occurs. Other themes explored in the novel are geoengineering, peak oil, the ocean thermohaline circulation and Greenland’s ice sheet melting! Whilst Robert Spire is left to solve the deaths of the climatologists in the book, do these themes have any basis in science fact? Let’s have a look in more detail.
Tipping Point explores the underlying theme that the Arctic is melting from global warming. Each year the ice pack covering the Arctic melts and retreats during the summer and freezes over again in the winter, with its maximum melt each year in September. Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre reveals that Arctic ice cover is on a downward trend. 2007 was the lowest recorded level, but 2011 looks likely to set a new record low. Scientists predict the Arctic may be ice free during the summer between 2013 and 2019, a startling and worrying fact. This would mean the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage - a route between the Atlantic and the Pacific - and give more opportunities for countries and companies to plunder the riches the Arctic has to offer.
In the book, French climatologist Francois Trimaud has developed a specialised form of iron sulphate to fertilise the Arctic Ocean, in order to slow down and reverse the Arctic’s melting ice by increasing Arctic albedo (reflectivity) levels. The experimental substance contains a whitening pigment called Blankoplankton.
Scientists are indeed looking at ways to geoengineer the Earth’s climate to solve, or reduce the effects of global warming. Iron fertilisation of the oceans is one method.
A theme explored in Tipping Point is the possibility that the World’s oil resources are running out, that supplies have reached a peak and are now on a downward curve. This theory was proposed by M King Hubbert, and he successfully predicted that the USA would reach its peak oil production in the early 1970s. Has this now happened with Saudi Arabia’s oil supplies?
Ocean Thermohaline Circulation.
In Tipping Point, the book opens with UK climatologist Dr Dale Stanton’s untimely death, preventing him delivering a talk on the Atlantic Oceans thermohaline circulation. The OTC or great ocean conveyor as it is known, is an important ocean current which brings warm water up from the Equator to the east coast of the USA and Europe in the form of the North Atlantic Drift and Gulf Stream. The film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ is based on the premise of the current suddenly failing, heralding in a new ice-age.
The UKs RAPID-WATCH project measures the rate or flow of the ocean current to assess whether its strength is changing. This project runs until 2014.
During a period called the Younger Dryas, a significant shutdown of the current is thought to have caused a rapid decline from relatively warmer conditions back to ice-age conditions in a blink of an eye in climactic terms. A huge influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz is thought to have been the possible cause. The fresh water flowing into the Atlantic would have disrupted the ocean flow by interfering with its thermohaline conveyor system.
Scientists are concerned that an increase in fresh water flowing into the Atlantic from Greenland’s melting ice sheets could once again disrupt the Thermo (heat) and haline (salt) engine that drives this essential current.
A back story in Tipping Point is the fact that a huge glacier on Greenland is melting, which causes isotactic adjustment of the Greenland continent underneath. Research does indeed show that Greenland glacier ice-melt is accelerating.
These are the facts, now if you fancy a thrilling action-adventure, why don’t YOU read TIPPING POINT?