The Arctic is like the canary in the coal mine, where many of the effects of climate change and global warming are amplified. Ice reflects about 80% of sunlight while the surrounding ocean absorbs 90% of sunlight. As sea ice retreats the planet’s reflectivity declines and the earth absorbs more of the sun’s heat.
As the Arctic warms the permafrost in surrounding land masses melts and releases methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere which in turn traps more heat. (satellite photo – NASA) See our post: 2017 Sea Ice at Record Lows.
More Rain Not Snow in the Arctic
Researchers from the Netherlands believe that these environmental trends will be exacerbated by substantially more rain over the next century. They expect precipitation to increase in the Arctic by 4%, twice the amount for the rest of the planet.
As Arctic sea ice retreats, it creates more open water that leads to increased evaporation, that results in more snow and rainfall. The rainy season will likely be longer and reach farther north. The navigation of a ship to the North Pole because all sea ice will have disappeared becomes a distinct future possibility
Direct Intervention Needed to Save Arctic Sea Ice
The thickness of sea ice in the central Arctic Ocean diminished by 65% from 1975 to 2012. Scientists have stressed the need to reduce carbon emissions, however Dr. Steven Desch at the Arizona School of Earth and Space Exploration, believes it is “too late to save the Arctic sea ice without direct intervention”
Direct Intervention has spawned a variety of proposals to counter the effects of Arctic sea ice melt.
Windmills in the Arctic
Researchers from Arizona State University now are suggesting a plan to spread floating windmills in the Arctic Ocean. Pumps powered by the windmills would draw frigid seawater and spread it across the ice during the Arctic winter.
The scientists state in a paper published in Earth’s Future that the process could add 1 meter of new ice in a single winter as well as protect existing sea ice. (diagram – John Morgan Christoph/Sue Selkirk)
The downside of windmills in the Arctic is that the plan would require 10 million pumps and the building, deployment and operation would cost an estimated $50 billion annually.
“Maybe trying to make more ice in the Arctic using windmills and pumps and hoses is a crazy idea,” said Dr. Steven Desch, an astrophysicist in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the paper’s first author. “But what’s really crazy is doing nothing while the Arctic melts.” Also see: NASA Flyover Reveals Arctic Ice in Retreat
The Point Of No Return for Greenland’s Coastal Glaciers
EcoWatch reports that by the end of this century Greenland’s coastal glaciers and ice caps may disappear completely. These glaciers cover approximately 100,000 square kilometers and their melting will add four centimeters to rising sea levels worldwide.
Scientists reporting in the Nature Communications journal make it clear that Greenland’s inland glaciers, the northern hemisphere’s largest body of ice, remains safe. However if it were to melt, it would have catastrophic impact, raising the world’s sea level by seven meters. (photo – Brendan Delaney/Shutterstock)
“However, we see melting occur higher and higher. That’s a big problem, because that ‘melting line’ is moving towards the altitude where most of the ice mass is.” says Brice Noel from the University of Utrecht.
Since Greenland contains the planet’s second largest volume of ice, what happens there is of world-wide concern.
Plastic Pollution Imperils the Arctic Ocean
EcoWatch and Science Advances report that ocean currents now carry the world’s plastic pollution into previously pristine Arctic waters. 300 billion bits of plastic are estimated to have accumulated in the Arctic Ocean and most of this plastic waste is in tiny fragments.
The multinational researchers have dubbed parts of the Barents and Greenland Seas a “dead end for this plastic converyor belt.” They also warn that climate change can make things worse as sea ice continues to retreat. (photo -Kahlee3)
“The growing level of human activity in an increasingly warm and ice-free Arctic, with wider open areas available for the spread of microplastics, suggests that high loads of marine plastic pollution may become prevalent in the Arctic in the future.”
“We don’t fully understand the consequences the plastic is having or will have in our oceans,” said Andres Cozar Cabanas the study’s lead author “What we do know is that these consequences will be felt at greater scale in an ecosystem like this.”. However, we have seen the effects of ocean pollution on the marine life in other parts of the globe. We recently reported on high levels of PCBs in one of Great Britian’s last remaining orcas and have on microplastics in seafood.
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