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NeilT, "But, no, keep on telling them you are going to destroy their business, put billions of people out of work and go back to the land. That'll work. Sure it will...." That's known as telling them the truth. If the x-rays are showing spots on the lung, what do you tell the three pack-a-day smoker, whether or not he wants to hear it? I don't see any other way; demand has to be cut as painfully as possible if we are to have even a ghost of a chance. That's what Mother Nature wants. Unlimited availability of cheap energy; that's what we want. And, you know who will win that battle.
Hans, "Superman, what about the idea that as fresh water melt increases reducing salinity, the THC can switch into an ice age?" Some researchers have viewed that as a possibility, with colder temperatures coming to North America and Europe. I haven't examined that effect sufficiently to comment further.
R. Gates, "Now there are no doubt certainly unpredictable nonlinear effects that could come from rapid increases in methane releases, much like the nonlinearities we're seeing with the sea ice melt, but talking about runaway global warming and such (even if on the very very unlikely case being true), brings no benefit to trying to speak to the more likely and scientfically justifiable climate effects." I examined the RealClimate link provided, and was not all that re-assured after reading many of the comments. And, we should add to that the paper in December 2012 that announced finding clathrates at 290 M depth, very vulnerable to water temperature changes. If there are sufficient shallow clathrates, their release could trigger some of the other positive feedback mechanisms that are cross-coupled synergistically through temperature, with highly nonlinear impacts. Think of the bigger picture here. All the credible governmental, intergovernmental, and industry projections of energy use have fossil use INCREASING over the next two-three decades. With business-as-usual, the global climate models predict ~5-6 C by the end of the century. Mark Lynas, in his book Six Degrees, predicts at those temperature levels many species go extinct, including ours. And, these global climate models don't include the major positive feedback mechanisms, so real-world effects will accelerate when we experience 5-6 C. The point is, we don't need Venusian-style runaway global warming. A modest acceleration that brings 6 C within our children's or grandchildren's lifetime will be as effective as reaching Venusian conditions.
I understand the interest in tracking the ice melt, but I'm wondering if we're operating on the right time scale. The net energy trapped by the greenhouse gases is allocated among at least four sinks: atmosphere, ocean, land, endothermic processes (like melting ice). There is no rule I see that requires the allocation to be the same for each sink every year. We have seen that the atmospheric temperature has been in somewhat of a plateau for more than the past decade while more energy was siphoned off into the (deep) ocean. If this blog had been devoted to following the atmospheric temperature at short time scales, there would have been much disappointment, and the blog would have provided the fodder for the deniers. Is it really that much different for the ice; isn't the long-term trend the real problem, and don't we have a pretty good idea of where that is going?
Toggle Commented Jul 11, 2013 on PIOMAS July 2013 at Arctic Sea Ice
Martin Gisser, But, beyond the difficulty of seeing a Pearl Harbor event for climate change, I see a more serious issue. The numbers are slowly starting to get out of reach. Kevin Anderson (U Manchester) has been doing the best linking of climate science to climate policy, in my estimation. He wrote a series of papers showing that, to avoid going beyond a global mean temperature increase of 2 C, global CO2 emissions would have to be reduced by about 10%/annum starting about now, and continued for decades. A recent paper in Nature by a Swiss modeling team showed that when other variables besides temperature constraints are taken into account, the CO2 emissions reductions have to be doubled. So, the global emissions reductions would have to be about 20%/annum, and with equity considerations, the advanced nations would have to reduce by 30%/annum or more. But, this is for 2 C, and the global models that Anderson used don't include the major positive feedback mechanisms. Anderson states, and many other leading climate scientists have stated, that 2 C brings us to the Extremely Dangerous region, and that a 1 C limit is much more justifiable from a scientific viewpoint. My own view is that the temperature at which the rapid Arctic ice melt started to become visible would have been a much better target, perhaps half of where we are today. If we terminated all fossil fuel use today, published studies show that we would reach peak temperatures of about 1.5-3.0 C in about 3-4 decades, with a few outliers on either side. The differences depend on assumptions made for 'climate sensitivity', 'aerosol forcing', and other parameters. So, at a minimum, we would need not only to terminate all fossil fuel use as soon as possible, but institute rapid carbon recovery and some type of geo-engineering in parallel to avoid going over the cliff in the interim. Is this even theoretically possible? In practice, there appears to be no evidence of any moves in this direction; both President Obama and the Chinese premier (5 March) have made statements that essentially say 'all of the above', which is diametrically opposite to what the numbers require. So, even if we did have a climate Pearl Harbor, what could we do to win the battle?
Martin Gisser, I agree with you; it's hard to see a Pearl Harbor event for climate change that will have anywhere near the motivational impact of the original.
Twemoran, "What would happen if we had another "spokesman" saying that - 'The Arctic will melt out in 5 years releasing deadly clouds of methane that will choke the life out of every one north of the equator.' Would media feel obligated to giving this person air time, would the debate move from where it is now toward the realistic scenarios now envisioned by science." Well, let's look at history. The USA Surgeon General's Report on smoking came out in 1964, and made your claim above for smoking. And, what happened? According to experts who followed tobacco use since then, the Report had little, if any, impact on convincing the 42% of the adult population who smoked to stop smoking. What cut smoking down to its present 21% were the economic penalties and mandates imposed by government. One reason I believe that government was able to get away with this much is that there was a considerable fraction of the population who despised smoking, and was willing to support tough measures to eliminate it, or at least restrict its use in public where others could be affected. There is the problem we face in climate change. Rather than 42% of the adults involved in intensive energy use, as was the case in smoking, it's more like 98%. And, the other 2% would like to become fossil fuel addicts if they could afford it. There is very little popular support for giving up our fossil fuel addiction. So, despite whatever messengers we send to television or the Internet, the message won't have traction because it's not the message the audience wants to hear.
Timothy Chase, "So it isn't up to you to actually provide any support for your position, the burden is entirely upon us to disprove it. That intuition certainly comes in handy, doesn't it? Honestly, I appreciate genuine participation in the discussion, but dramatic grandstanding and empty rhetoric isn't helpful on any level." I have provided you all the support for my position that I can. I examined Maslowski's most recent review of Arctic models. They do not incorporate key feedbacks, each of which by itself would exacerbate the situation, and in concert form an extremely powerful self-reinforcing positive feedback loop. Many people have stated that Maslowski's NAME models are the most credible, and these model runs have predicted ice-free days in a very few years. So, I start with the model results, consider all the positive feedbacks that appear important to me and are not incorporated in the model, intuit how much additional temperature/GHG increase would result by combining the two, and that's how I came to that conclusion. I can't give you anything more definitive, since the tools do not yet exist that will give harder numbers. If you want to take the 'denier' position that since we don't have hard numbers as backup, let's do nothing, that is your prerogative. But, let me tell you what I have found after years of research in myriad disciplines. There is good research published, poor research, and 'manufactured' research. Sometimes, especially for very complex problems, it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. In addition, sumperimposed on the published work are the intent and pre-conceived agendas of the authors, and they are usually unknown by the reader. In the end, to make any headway, one has to rely on experience and intuition as to which of the myriad documents to believe, and what is the best way to move forward. From what I have read in the climate change literature so far, there are a handful of people I would trust, when I take all the considerations above into account.
Robertscribbler, "Superman -- That's really a serious concern and one we should be talking about publicly. A worst case, if you will." That's the problem; I don't view it as a worst case. If we generate a probability distribution of all expected outcomes, with a weighting on each outcome based on observations, model predictions, understanding of model limitations, and, most importantly, understanding of basic physics, I view the case presented as the most probable outcome. We have been led by the Press and their 'denier' handmaidens to believe that anything more than slight temperature increases due mainly to natural variability are the norm, and anything substantially beyond that is alarmist or doomsday thinking, and is to be disparaged. To me, the extremist views are what the mainstream Press presents as the norm; they have the greatest deviation from what I view as the most probable reality. Lewis, "we surely need to identify how much of what passes for science is actually applied politics." As I have stated previously, and for which I have received a barrage of criticism, I believe all 'science' and 'research' is 'cherry-picking'. One can call it 'applied politics', or whatever, but it represents a process of 'objectivity' firmly imbedded in a base of 'subjectivity'. Think of the etiology of the research process, at least in the USA. Typically, a funding agency or foundation or company program manager issues some sort of Request for Proposal. This RFP sets the bounds on what will be funded and, depending on the research area, will reflect political/commercial considerations to differing degrees. Proposals are submitted, and those aspects will be emphasized subjectively that will provide the greatest probability of winning the grant. In the conduct of the study, subjective decisions are made as to which databases to use, which sources to cite, which instrumentation, which variables and parameters to select, which output data to select, which type of analysis to do, and how to present the results. Now, within those subjective decisions, objective actions can be performed, but in reality, the whole research process is highly arbitrary and subjective. Now, some apolitical and acommercial areas like Cosmology may contain less subjectivity and more objectivity, but when we get to climate change, every step will be highly political. In the end, when all is said and done, there are few, if any, incentives for the program managers and the research performers to arrive at the hard truth if it will oppose powerful commercial and political interests. In fact, there are many strong disincentives, and the only counter is having a strong moral and ethical compass for doing what's right, in spite of the negative consequences that will result from telling the truth. How many Peter Wadhams or James Hansens or Michael Manns are there, who continue to persevere with the truth for decades despite all the accusations hurled against them?
Artful Dodger, "Yes, Geoff. And even the 2C target itself is suspect. It was a round number agreed upon at Copenhagen, when the advice was actually 1.5C as a safe upper limit. We're already seeing just how unsafe 0.8C is, and there's probably already that much more warming in the pipe due to delayed equilibrium. It's clear that we will not even attempt to avoid 2C. I think were fighting over 3C vs 10C now, if we let feedbacks take hold. Personally, I'd much rather live in a +3C world than an even warmer one. But when you're in a hole, the first thing you must do is stop digging." What concerns me is that climate change is, by far, the defining problem of our time, and the data we're using is as soft as jelly on a Summer's day. My impression of these articles that talk about 'safe' limits of CO2 emissions/atmospheric accumulations is that they relate these CO2 emissions to temperature increases based on past experience, and assume these temperature increases will 'hold' when making their impact estimations. But, we know people today and even yesterday are observing positive feedbacks, and some of these feedbacks are increasing signicantly. So, what makes us believe that a temperature increase of even 1.5 C is 'safe' or 'acceptable', or can be stabilized, in the absence of any fully coupled models that include positive feedbacks? I suspect that if you assembled Wadhams and Barber and Hansen and others who have many years of actual observation and/or modeling experience in an Irish pub, and plied them with a few high-hop Guinness Stouts, they would raise serious questions about whether what we have generated up to this point can be stabilized, much less what we would generate in another five or ten years at the present rate of CO2 emissions. Intuition alone would dictate we have gone over the brink, and without fully coupled models that include all the major feedbacks to offer any possibility of disputing intuition, I have zero confidence that we can avoid the climate change bullet. Prove me wrong!
Thereoncewasawindmill, "The albedo for a calm water surface is only 2 to 3 percent for a solar elevation angle exceeding 60° , but is more than 50 percent when the angle is 15° ." So, considering the Sun's angles of incidence during the Summer, and variation of solar heat flux with incidence angle, what is the result when doing the integration? How different is it from Wadhams' estimate, and is this difference significant in the point he is making?
Geoff Beacon, "I understood it was based on models that have feedbacks missing. This past month or so we have found out there are even more missing feedbacks." Look at Maslowski's review of Arctic sea ice published this March. Even the best models have not included many of the feedbacks, and are therefore underestimating the rate of ice volume decline. I have examined different nonlinear dynamical systems in the past. Depending on the nature of the system, the decline can be precipitous. When I look at the Arctic system, especially after the appearance of significant amounts of open water, the number of different self-reinforcing positive feedback mechanisms appears staggering to me. Obviously, I haven't done the calculations that include all these positive feedback loops acting in concert (and neither have any of the modelers), but based on intuition and what I have seen with other nonlinear dynamical systems, we are in the midst of a catastrophe. But, when I try to convey that to my neighbors and acquaintances, at best I am met with indifference. We live in one of the mid-Atlantic states in the USA, and it's difficult to see any life-altering weather/climate changes over the past few decades. Maybe there are a few more days in the high 90s rather than the mid-90s, and maybe some foods have increased in price moderately at the store, but there are no catastrophes that are visible immediately. So, unless we can effectively link the Arctic tragedy to daily life, all the BBC broadcasts in the world won't make one whit of difference no matter who the pundits are.
Dorlomin, "Lilley was absolutely seething at the BBC piece. How dare they use current data rather than 5 year old models." When was the actual work done for the 2007 IPCC Report? Usually, there are substantial lag times between when research is conducted and when it is published. I would suspect that in a report of this sensitivity, which involves over 100 countries, much more time than usual is required before a go-ahead decision is given to release to the public. Are we really talking about work that was conducted in 2005 or 2004, based upon even earlier data?
Doug Bostrom, "Anybody here happen to know the aviation maintenance/safety enhancement know as "HUMS?" Among other things HUMS captures recordings of nominal dynamic behavior of aviation machinery so when things begin to go weird they'll be noticed before parts start to fly off. Imagine if the Arctic basin plot Neven posted was a helicopter rotor harmonic plot and the mechanic responsible for the machine was routinely reviewing HUMS data for signs of trouble. Business as usual? Doubtful. Ideally we'd be using our instrumentation systems as an alarm source. Of course, that's axiomatically "alarmist" so no can do." The USA military developed a similar approach to HUMS called Condition-Based Maintenance. The main driver was to do periodic maintenance of plants and machinery based on the operational condition of the machinery, not rules of thumb for maintenance intervals. It is important to insure that all phenomena are modeled, and it is important to have myriad sensors on the machinery to identify deviations from the norm at the most nascent stages. But, for operational machinery, the military wanted to minimize operational costs and maximize safety, and CBM appears to be able to accomplish both objectives. Both the military and civilian community are on-board with these objectives. For climate change, the situation is the opposite. The energy consumers are comfortable with the intensive fossil fuel use that feeds their lifestyle, and are not interested in hearing about the downstream consequences. The fossil fuel resource owners and distributors are making a bundle off the status quo, and don't want the downstream consequences to be known. The fossil fuel workers are comfortable with their fossil fuel employment, and are not interested in hearing about the downstream consequences. And the politicians, who understand that none of these constituenciss want to alter the status quo, are not about to charge off on their own and raise the alarm.
Espen Olsen, "Volume will soon tell us when the show is over!" Incomplete metric! As I stated above: "Additionally, they are not taking into account, nor predicting, the quality of the ice. For any functional purpose (navigation, tourism, defense, climate stabilization, etc), the ice may already be gone."
Evilreductionist, "Now, it could be that the reason many models did not pick up on the rapid decline is that scientists were trying to take into account all kinds of potential negative and positive feedbacks, feedbacks that in the real world simply have not had time to kick in." You have made this point multiple times. What is the evidentiary basis for such a statement? Remember, these are nonlinear dynamical systems. There does not need to be a large change in the boundary/initial conditions to effect a large change in the outcome/solution. There have been large increases in the methane released in the Arctic. One of the recent Russian expeditions talked about observing methane plumes on large spatial scales, orders of magnitude larger than observed only a few years earlier. Cyclones have increased in strength, due to more open water and more heat to drive them. There are many other examples. I recently read a review of Arctic models published in March. Even the best models don't appear to incorporate methane release and other feedbacks, and if they are regional, don't incorporate feedbacks from deforestation, wildfire, and other phenomena. Some of the better models predict 'ice-free' late Summer conditions in perhaps three years, with substantial uncertainty. If feedbacks were incorporated, they would push the results in only one direction. So, the most conservative results are being generated by the models. Additionally, they are not taking into account, nor predicting, the quality of the ice. For any functional purpose (navigation, tourism, defense, climate stabilization, etc), the ice may already be gone. I think a better model than one that ignores feedbacks is that of a house. The center of the roof is flat, and the sides are sloped with slightly increased slope as the edge is approached. In the 70s and 80s, we predicted what would happen when walking away from the center based on what we measured in the center. Business as usual. In the 90s and early 00s, we predicted what would happen when walking away from the center based on what we measured on the center and beginning of the sloped part. Now, we are predicting what will happen when walking away from the sloped part based on what we measured for the whole of the sloped part. Without the feedbacks, we will see more sloped part, perhaps with slightly increased slope. With feedbacks, it will be obvious that we have stepped over the edge of the roof.
Djprice537, "I watched Barber(sic) lecture last night as he described the icebreaker's ability to cut easily through 9 meter ice (it split and rolled over quickly)." The takeaway from that statement is that not only quantity of ice is important (as PIOMAS presents), but quality of ice is at least as important. As Barber showed, for some operational purposes, the Arctic may already be 'ice-free'. Yes, ice still occupies space and shows up on the elecro-optical sensors, but for many practical purposes, it might as well not be there. In previous posts, I discussed 'cherry-picking' of data, and the feedback was very negative. Well, in my estimation, slavishly focusing on the ice volume trajectory without examining quality at the same time is a 'poster boy' for cherry-picking. Obviously, it is done on this blog because it's easy to measure, like the old parable about looking for the keys under the lamp-post. The ice is dead; accept it! Whether it takes a year for the corpse to decay from the sensors or ten years is not the issue. What we need now is an expert pathologist to examine its demise over the past decade or two, and describe all the responsible mechanisms, and how they interacted, to bring about the demise.
NeilT, "In my experience, the public are not interested in "the larger picture". They're interested whether the world is going to cave in on them in the next 5 years or not." Agreed. I'm in my mid-70s, and until relatively recently thought that I and those in my age demographic would avoid the climate change bullet. Now, after considering what is happening in the Arctic, I'm not so sure. We obviously won't see the worst of it; that will be our 'gift' to future generations. But, we will experience more impacts than we ever thought possible even a few short years ago. Events may transpire much faster than anyone is projecting. That's why I have stressed understanding and accounting for as many of these positive feedback mechanisms and their interactions as possible whenever possible, and understanding how they can be extrapolated to ascertain whether they reflect nature's general principles for effecting climate change. The Arctic gives us a unique laboratory for extracting these mechanisms, and we should do whatever is in our power to optimize the output from these experiments. Yes, the numbers are a necessary condition for eliciting these mechanisms, but they are not sufficient. Posters should be encouraged to place these observations in a larger context at every opportunity.
FrankD, "They might surprise you - your four weeks you have not necessarily representative of the history of this place - environmental context has been discussed frequently, and this site has demonstrated its value in simply keeping its eyes on the ice..... Rather than describe them at length, I suggest you read some history here. Perhaps July to December 2010 would be the densest concentration of good material for a start." Your statement reflects a difference in our world views. 'Context' is like 'exercise; they can't be done sporadically if maximum growth is desired. A burst of exercise done two years ago and little now wouldn't do anyone very much good. Same as 'context'. Were there no new insights gained in the last couple of years? Was there no better understanding of the emergence of enhanced melting mechanisms and the interactions among those mechanisms that lead to this year's increased melting, and that may accelerate future melting drastically? Shouldn't each blog page be peppered with such discussions? Lewis has it exactly right in his comments above: "it is only through that integration with remote events that decision makers and the public have any sense of its critical importance." "You see, I don't think its too much to claim that this blog has been something of a PARC for Sea Ice "aetiology"*, and has seeded those ideas through the blogosphere, and even into the minds of real-live scientists. The relatively simple but visually powerful graphs that have been developed by the "nerdy collegium" (love it!) are picked up by other blogs discussing context, make it into the main-stream media, and even parliamentary enquiries, it seems. That is not merely "entertaining the limited circle". I think you will find that a lot of metrics, memes, commonplace understanding about both aetiology and context - things that you probably first saw on other blogs or in the papers - were born on this ward. The influence of this blog transcends mere traffic stats." I have no doubt this is an important blog. How important? That requires an independent objective assessment of its impacts, which like most real-world events is not a simple task.
Lewis, "From this perspective I'm hoping you might give more space (posts) to the effects and implications of sea ice loss, as it is only through that integration with remote events that decision makers and the public have any sense of its critical importance." Bingo!!
Jim Williams, "It would help if some attempt is made to respect limits here. I think I'd rather see those limit grow organically than see them handed down on high, but I strongly agree with those asking that the philosophy be taken out of the Current Events threads." I don't disagree with your comment about 'philosophy'. In my post, I don't mention 'philosophy', I mention 'context'. In particular, I have in mind the larger technical/physical/environmental context in which the ice numbers are imbedded. There are other Web sites that focus more on philosophy, and those would be more appropriate for a discussion of climate change philosophy. Now, I want to repeat a point I made in a previous post, which received no responses. It appeared to me that the presence of significant open water was a turning point in the future of Arctic ice melting. The presence of open water opened Pandora's box, in that many mechanisms that contributed to the positive feedback loop came into play. It was almost as though Nature decided to 'pull out all the stops' in eliminating the ice. In terms of context, what is the bigger picture here? Is this Nature's Hamiltonian for how the different climate change observables (drought, extreme temperatures and weather events, wildfires, etc) will evolve? Will Nature pull out all the stops in greatly heightening the influence and severity of each one of these observables? If so, it means that the past will be an extremely conservative predictor of the future, and the projections we see reported for future climate change greatly underestimate the real climate change effects.
Bill Kapra, "As you surely know, this is sort of a nerdy colloquium focused on rather mundane matters that fascinate many of us. Yes, they have significant, global connections. And, yes, many of us are passionate about them. But this blog, thanks to Neven, has been largely focused on the particulars with the bigger picture kept as background and context for close attention to detail." Your statement assumes an accepted mission and charter for the site that I have not seen posted. I publish in, and review for, a number of technical journals. Each journal has a mission statement/charter posted on its Web site. Typically, people unfamiliar with the journal will both read the mission statement and sample the published articles before submitting a manuscript for publication. Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen a mission statement posted for this site. Therefore, it seems that anything reasonably connected with Arctic ice is fair game. Now, many of the posters seem to have a morbid fascination with hourly snapshots of ice area/extent/volume metrics. That's fine, but if that's your view of the operational scope of this site, I believe it would be a waste of an enormous amount of unique talent. As I pointed out in a previous post, Arctic ice melting devoid of context is about as interesting as my documenting the grass growth on my lawn. What makes the ice temporal trajectory interesting is its meaning in the larger context. And, it is this larger context that has to first be understood and second be communicated to the larger community. We have a problem with the etiology of climate change today. Perhaps the most sensitive indicator of climate change is what is happening in the Arctic now. However, from what I can see, except for the indiginous populations (and this blog), there appears to be little interest in the extinction of Arctic ice unfolding before our eyes. Most people I know view it as an opportunity to explore and exploit the region either for tourism or resource extraction. Additionally, most people I know have more immediately-related concerns about climate change: drought, higher food prices, more extreme temperatures and storms, etc. So, there is a gap between what is happening in the Arctic and its impact on the people who can effect change if they are motivated: the public. If this site is to have value above and beyond entertaining the limited circle of readers, it needs to present the context of the Arctic happenings in such a way that the link between the ice disappearance and these more immediate signs of climate change become apparent. Bottom Line - numbers are interesting, but the more that they can be related to general climate change mechanisms, the more potential impact they can have on the public.
""While ice volume continued to decrease through August, the average ice thickness increased in August as areas covered by thin ice became ice free leaving thicker ice behind."" An important point, but needs to be re-worded for clarity.
Misfratz, "What this suggests to me is that the decline of Arctic sea-ice is only just getting started, and an ice-free date in September in the near-future is just the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end. When the sea-ice decline in May and June starts to take hold, then we'll really see the ice-albedo feedback at work, and there will be all manner of rapid changes." I think what's really happening is that all the positive feedbacks are kicking in due to the presence of significant open water. The past may be an overly conservative predictor of the future under these circumstances.
GeoffBeacon, "Comments" I can't speak for British MPs, but I suspect their motivations are not too dissimilar from their American counterparts. The American Congresspeople basically answer to two groups: the campaign donors/sponsors and the voters. The sponsors, many of whom directly or indirectly benefit from the status quo in fossil fuel consumption, are happy with the status quo, and would in fact like more of the same. They are all tripping over each others' feet in order to show how they support the USA drilling its way into energy independence. The voters have become addicted to intensive energy use, much of which requires fossil fuels, and they don't want to make the types of sacrifices required to reduce CO2 levels drastically. So, there are essentially no incentives for the politicians to take any steps that will cause conflicts with these two important groups on the climate change issue, and that's what your clevery-worded response is telling you. There is the myth in America of the independent-minded politician driven by the highest ethical and moral considerations, as portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but these types are so few and far between that they have fallen off the radar screen. I would expect zero help from the political system. Our only chance, if one exists, is to sway the large electorate almost overnight. This seems to me about as likely as the Titanic avoiding the iceberg when a visual sighting is made fifty feet away.