Thursday, June 19, 2008

Arctic Sea Ice Melting Even Faster than in 2007

Earlier this year a Norwegian scientist predicted that the Arctic sea ice might completely disappear as early as this summer. With the Arctic covering a larger area this winter compared with the previous winter this prediction didn’t look too good but a recent report that the Arctic ice is melting faster this year than last year suggests that prediction may yet have a chance of being on the money. The BBC reports that scientists from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado have found that even though there was a greater area of ice this year the area is now down to where it was last year when records for sea ice loss were broken indicating that it is melting faster. A scientist from the NSIDC predicted that all the ice would be gone within a decade. Whether all the ice disappears this year, by 2012, or by even by 2018 this seems to spell big trouble. The article quotes Ian Willis from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England.

This is a positive feedback process. Sea ice has a higher albedo (reflectivity) than ocean water; so as the ice melts, the water absorbs more of the Sun's energy and warms up more, and that in turn warms the atmosphere more - including the atmosphere over the Greenland ice sheet.

Not only would the Greenland ice sheet affected, which if completely melted would raise sea levels over 20 feet, but as was described in my previous post, the vast permafrost in the Arctic region would be affected which could release enormous quantities of the greenhouse gas methane and thereby set off another positive feedback process. It doesn’t seem to take too much imagination to realize how this whole global warming thing can get completely out of hand.

No comments: