arctic sea ice loss

Melting Arctic Sends a Message: Climate Change Is Here in a Big Way

Read time: 5 mins
Scientists standing on sea ice among melt ponds in the Chukchi Sea

By Mark Serreze, University of Colorado

Scientists have known for a long time that as climate change started to heat up the Earth, its effects would be most pronounced in the Arctic. This has many reasons, but climate feedbacks are key. As the Arctic warms, snow and ice melt, and the surface absorbs more of the sun’s energy instead of reflecting it back into space. This makes it even warmer, which causes more melting, and so on.

This expectation has become a reality that I describe in my new book Brave New Arctic. It’s a visually compelling story: The effects of warming are evident in shrinking ice caps and glaciers and in Alaskan roads buckling as permafrost beneath them thaws.

But for many people the Arctic seems like a faraway place, and stories of what is happening there seem irrelevant to their lives. It can also be hard to accept that the globe is warming up while you are shoveling out from the latest snowstorm.

Burning Fossil Fuels is Responsible for Most Sea-Level Rise Since 1970

Read time: 5 mins
By Aimée Slangen, Utrecht University and John Church, CSIRO

Global average sea level has risen by about 17 cm between 1900 and 2005. This is a much faster rate than in the previous 3,000 years.

The sea level changes for several reasons, including rising temperatures as fossil fuel burning increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In a warming climate, the seas are expected to rise at faster rates, increasing the risk of flooding along our coasts. But until now we didn’t know what fraction of the rise was the result of human activities.

In research published in Nature Climate Change, we show for the first time that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the majority of sea level rise since the late 20th century.

As the amount of greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere continues to increase, we need to understand how sea level responds. This knowledge can be used to help predict future sea level changes.

The Annual Arctic Sea Ice Drama Begins

Read time: 2 mins

In my last post, I discussed how the increasing risk of devastating heat waves—unlike the worsening of tornadoes—is definitely a phenomenon we can link to global warming. And now, as summer plods on, it’s time to begin paying attention to another one: the continuing decline of Arctic sea ice.

The extent of ice covering the Arctic has been declining for decades, and reached a record low in September of 2007, nearly 40 percent below its long term average. This wasn’t solely the product of global warming—weather patterns also have a lot to do with ice extent, and they contributed to the 2007 record. 

Nevertheless, much like the worsening of heat waves, Arctic ice decline is one of the most obvious  impacts of global warming—and this year, it’s possible that Arctic ice extent might reach a minimum even lower than it did in 2007.

Has Arctic sea ice loss become irreversible?

Read time: 3 mins

The party’s over, we had us a time..
We burned all the kindling…
Watched the last coals dwindling
And the ice melting down…

Eliza Gilkyson

Is the party over?

According to a new study by scientists at the NSICD (National Snow and Ice Data Centre), there’s a good chance that Arctic sea ice has melted beyond the point of no return.

Joseph Romm points us to a story in today’s edition of the UK’s Independent.  The news is not good:

Scientists have found the first unequivocal evidence that the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world at least a decade before it was predicted to happen.

Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover.

Arctic Sea Ice loss 1979 to 2007

This animation compares the 2005 annual Arctic minimum sea ice from 09/21/2005 (shown in orange) with the 2007 minimum sea ice from 09/14/2007. The average minimum sea ice from 1979 through 2007 is shown in green. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Read time: 1 min
Video: 

Arctic Sea Ice loss 1979 to 2007

This animation compares the 2005 annual Arctic minimum sea ice from 09/21/2005 (shown in orange) with the 2007 minimum sea ice from 09/14/2007. The average minimum sea ice from 1979 through 2007 is shown in green. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Read time: 1 min
Video: 

John Locke Foundation's Reality Not Grounded in Reality

Read time: 2 mins

Roy Cordato, “Resident scholar” at the John Locke Foundation, asks the question: “What's really going on with Arctic and Antarctic sea ice?”

The answer for Cordato and the JLF can apparently be found at the Exxon-sweet Heartland Institute, who claims that the contracting of Arctic sea ice is due to localized wind patterns and “is unrelated to global warming.”

Impressive. Too bad it's only half the story.

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