Monday, May 25, 2009

The Arctic Continues To Melt: AMAP report confirms rapid advance

The latest report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) confirms what other scientific agencies have been saying, that the Arctic ice is melting at a rate faster than previously thought. Previous scientific models are not keeping up with the rapid changes taking place due to the feedback effect (when warmer temperatures melt ice that exposes dark water which absorbs sunlight and therefore warms the water even more), complicated by the influx of warmer water currents as climate change begins to impact the temperature/current relationships in the oceans.

I had the opportunity to see and film firsthand the 2007 summer sea ice that had reached its lowest level that year in recorded history. It was impressive to see until you realized that the ice floes and floating shards were supposed to be one solid sheet of impenetrable ice. The following year, even with a cooler spring, produced the second lowest level.

The AMAP report, Update on Selected Climate Issues of Concern, noted the need for improved models (a subject I mentioned in an earlier posting) to determine the long-term impact of negative and potential positive effects. As an example, will the newly exposed seas increase plankton growth which can absorb more carbon (a positive) be offset by the loss of marine life, including plankton, due to the influx of more fresh water from melting ice (a negative) or vice-versa?

One thing is certain: whether you watch the summer ice in the Northwest Passage or the reduction of ice in Greenland, climate change is a real growing threat and must be addressed. Nature won't wait while the decision-makers muddle it over.

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