Sunday, August 31, 2008

Arctic Summer Sea Ice 2008: Update

On August 6th, I posted a a status report on summer sea ice conditions in the Arctic and the possibility that it might be better than last year's all-time record low. Here's an update from the Associated Press:

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is at its second lowest level in nearly 30 years and with three weeks left in the Arctic summer, this year could wind up breaking last September's all-time record. Arctic ice melts in the summer and refreezes in the winter but more and more ice is being lost to the sea and not recovered in the winter. Ice reflects the sun's heat while the open ocean absorbs more heat and the melting accelerates warming in other parts of the world.

"We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point," said senior scientist Mark Serreze at the data center. The melting causes "Arctic amplification" where the warming up north is increased in a feedback mechanism and the effects spill southward in the autumn as more warm water releases more heat into the air, making the atmosphere warmer than normal. "Climate warming is coming larger and faster than the models are predicting," Serreze said.

The condition of the Arctic Circle is a perfect barometer for what lies ahead in southern climates. We must pay attention.

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