And the problem is only going to get worse.
Over the past few days, the Arctic’s most resilient sea ice has begun to break up. Located north of Greenland, this ice has remained solid since humans started monitoring it in the mid-60s. Until now, that is. Scientists believe that this will usher in a new era for arctic ice, where almost none of it lasts a full year without melting.
The Arctic region suffers the most from climate change and experiences around twice as much warming as most other parts of the world. But even with so much warming, a core of sea ice around the poles has remained intact for the past 50 years. In the extreme north of our planet, temperatures rarely rise above freezing, even in summer.
This year, the arctic winter was the warmest ever, with temperatures reaching a high of 35 degrees Fahrenheit during the month of February. Warm winter temperatures meant the ice was weaker this year than in previous years.
So what does that look like in practice? Here’s a timelapse of NASA satellite imagery of the coast of Greenland. In it, you can clearly see the sea ice pulling back from the coast:
Arctic sea ice is once again pulling away from the coast of far northern Greenland. You can easily see this reflected in the current drift circulation: https://t.co/BkhAkJipgm. Sea ice extent in the Greenland Sea has been at or near a record low for most of 2018. pic.twitter.com/zvOEyNpHut
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) August 6, 2018
This has only happened once before, during this year’s winter season. But going forward this will likely be a yearly event, to the detriment of the Arctic ecosystem and our planet’s health as a whole. When the sea ice retreats from the coast like this, it allows warmer Atlantic water to flow into the Arctic and forces chunks of sea ice to flow into warmer southern waters, where it will melt.
With this ice melting, there’s very little ice anywhere in the Arctic that sticks around all year. The result is a warmer Arctic that reflects less sunlight, leading to a runaway effect that contributes even more to climate change. There’s a danger that this and other runaway effects can lead to a so-called ‘hothouse Earth’ where temperatures stabilize several degrees above what they are today.
Source: The Guardian
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA