Thursday, September 06, 2012

Arctic ice melt is like adding 20 years of CO2 emissions

Polar bear

Spotted seal


Arctic hare

Ringed seal
Ribbon seal

Arctic wolf

Beluga whale

Arctic fox
 And there are so many more

NSIDC sea ice extent map

The sea ice extent on 26 August (white) is markedly different from the 1979-2000 average (orange line)

Loss of Arctic ice is effectively doubling mankind's contribution to global warming, according to ice scientist Professor Peter Wadhams. White ice reflects more sunlight away from the earth than open water, acting like a parasol. Melting of white Arctic ice (currently at its lowest level in recent history) is causing more absorption. Prof Wadhams calculates that this increased absorption of the sun's rays is "the equivalent of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man".

In 1980, the Arctic ice in summer made up some 2% of the Earth's surface. But since then the ice has roughly halved in area, and the volume of ice has dropped to just a quarter of what it was.
"The volume of ice in the summer is only a quarter of what it was 30 years ago and that's really the prelude to this final collapse," Prof Wadhams said.

The polar ice cap acts as a giant parasol, reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere in what is known as the albedo effect. But white ice and snow reflect far more of the sun's energy away than the open water that is replacing it as the ice melts. Instead of being reflected away from the Earth, this energy is absorbed, and contributes to the warming of the planet.

Opinions vary on the date of the demise of summer sea ice. The Met Office says it is not expecting the Arctic to be completely ice-free in summer until after 2030.  But the inescapable fact is that it is going to disappear completely along with many arctic species of animals.
Do you care? Do you think it will not affect you? Don't live in denial...see what you can do.

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