Global warming is melting the polar ice. Can the Arctic Survive?

While conducting research in Greenland, ice scientist Twila Moon was surprised this summer by what climate change it has condemned the Earth to lose and what could still be saved.

The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet and is on the verge of survival as the UN climate negotiations taking place in Scotland this week could make the difference between ice and water in the top of the world in the same way. that a couple of tenths of a degree are important around the freezing mark, scientists say.

Arctic ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking, and some glaciers are already gone. Permafrost, the frozen soil that traps the powerful greenhouse gas methane, is thawing. Forest fires have broken out in the Artic. Siberia even hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Even a region called Last ice zone showed an unexpected melt this year.

In the next two decades, the Arctic is likely to see summers without sea ice.

While regularly returning to Greenland, Moon, a researcher at the US National Ice and Snow Data Center, said she finds herself “mourning and grieving over the things we have already lost” due to past carbon dioxide emissions that they trap heat.

But the decisions we make now about how much more carbon pollution the Earth emits will mean “an incredibly big difference between how much ice we keep and how much we lose and how fast,” he said.

The fate of the Arctic is very important during the climate talks in Glasgow, the northernmost part of the negotiations, because what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Scientists believe that warming there is already contributing to climate calamities in other parts of the world.

“If we end up in a seasonally sea ice-free Arctic during the summer, that’s something human civilization has never known about,” said former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati, who heads the University of Colorado’s environmental program. “That’s like giving the climate system a sledgehammer.”

What is happening in the Arctic is a runaway effect.

“Once you start to melt, that increases the melting further,” said Julienne Stroeve, an ice scientist at the University of Manitoba.

Ice on the brink of survival: warming is changing the Arctic. #Global Warming #ClimateChange

When covered in snow and ice, the Arctic reflects sunlight and heat. But that blanket is shrinking. And as more sea ice melts in the summer, “you’re revealing really dark ocean surfaces, like a black T-shirt,” Moon said. Like dark clothing, the open patches of the sea absorb heat from the sun more easily.

Between 1971 and 2019, the surface of the Arctic warmed three times faster than the rest of the world, according to the Arctic Assessment and Monitoring Program.

The result?

“The Arctic is not just changing temperature,” Abdalati said. “It is changing state. It is becoming a different place. “

The 2015 Paris climate agreement set a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures or, failing that, keeping it below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s.

The difference between what happens at 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees can affect the Arctic more strongly than the rest of the world, said John Walsh, a climate scientist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, a member of the Arctic monitoring team. “We can save the Arctic, or at least preserve it in many ways, but we will lose it if we exceed 1.5.”

The Arctic itself has exceeded 2 degrees Celsius warming, Stroeve said. It is approaching 16 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius) of warming in November, he said.

For John Waghiyi Jr., the Arctic is neither a number nor an abstraction. It has been his home for 67 years, and he and other native Bering Sea elders have seen the Arctic change due to warming. Sea ice, which allows hunting for humans and polar bears, is shrinking in the summer.

“Ice is very dangerous today. It’s very unpredictable, “said Waghiyi of Savoonga, Alaska.” The ice pack affects us all, spiritually, culturally and physically, as we need it to continue harvesting. “

Ice is “at the center of our identity,” said Dalee Sambo Dorough, international president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which represents 165,000 people in various nations.

This is not just a problem for people living in the Arctic. It spells trouble for regions much further south.

A growing number of studies link changes in the Arctic to disturbances in the jet stream (the river of air that moves the climate from west to east) and other weather systems. And those changes, scientists say, can contribute to more extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, February Texas Freeze, or more severe wildfires.

In addition, melting ice sheets and glaciers can contribute significantly to sea level rise.

“The fate of places like Miami is closely tied to the fate of Greenland,” said David Balton, chairman of the US Arctic Executive Steering Committee, who coordinates U.S. national regulations involving the Arctic and deals with other northern nations. “If you live in Topeka, Kansas, or if you live in California. If you live in Nigeria, your life will suffer. … The Arctic matters on all kinds of levels. “

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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