Arctic Sea Ice Is Endangered

To be completely cliche: “endangered” is defined as “threatened with extinction.” And that is the most apt way to describe the current state of the Arctic sea ice.

The amount of Arctic sea ice has reached a new low: 186,000 square miles below the previous low in 2007. It is melting much more rapidly than previously expected, which is a testament to the increasing ferocity and unpredictability of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2007 that the Arctic would be ice-free during the summer in 2100. But then the record melting in 2007 led to new findings, and the IPCC re-concluded the an Arctic ice-free summer could come as early as 2030.

Melting of the Arctic glaciers creates what is known as a positive feedback loop. These ice sheets are responsible for reflecting 80% of the sunlight that hits it. In other words: they make sure that hot sun rays are bounced back into space, not kept within the Earth’s atmosphere. But when the glaciers melt, there is dark ocean underneath. And we all know that bright colors reflect while dark colors absorb. So the ocean absorbs 90% of the sunlight that hits it, warming the ocean temperatures, melting more glaciers, etc…: a loop that feeds itself; positive feedback.

“Water pouring into the North Atlantic will not only raise sea levels, but is also likely to modify weather patterns. “If the world allows a substantial fraction of the Greenland ice sheet to disintegrate, all hell breaks loose for eastern North America and Europe,” says NASA’s James Hansen, the world’s foremost climatologist.”

Read more in a recent Rolling Stone article by Bill McKibben and this article from the BBC.

 

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