September 16th 2012: The arctic ice cap cover has reached a record low. It now stands at half of its summer average, at 3.61 million square kilometers, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC).
This record speed of melting is expected to change weather patterns, and according to the BBC, some already think that the unusually wet weather this summer in Europe was a result. According to Dr. Wadhams of Cambridge University, new predictions say that by the summer of 2015 (compared to 2030 by the Met Office), the great north will be ice free (Planetsave). The reason for the unexpectedly fast melt can be chalked up to the ice thickness measurements, which have not been systematically recorded as long as the ice cover has been. Furthermore, permanent ice is harder to melt than one-year-old ice.
We must also be aware of the increasing dark surfaces. The ice caps, thanks to their glaringly white surfaces, reflected most of the sun’s heat back into space. Now, the dark oceans will absorb more heat and radiation, causing the ice to melt ever faster (BBC).
You can see a video of the ice melting along with wind patterns here, courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.
Narwhal lovers have cause to worry. If the ice cap melts, the way will be left wide open for orca whales, which are apex predators (meaning they are at the top of the aquatic food chain), to travel to this haven and tip the delicate equilibrium (L’Actualité).
But there are upsides, depending on who you are. Capitalists rejoice; some ships have already started using the open waters for shorter shipping trips (BBC). There are also rumors of oil, gas and mineral deposits hidden away, catching the eye of potential firms. In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper already has plans worth $500 billion to develop some of these resources (CBC).
And for sunbathers, the loss of the ice is expected to cause droughts and heat waves, according to Dr. Julienne Stroeve of the NSIDC. For us gardeners, better get those rain barrels stocked up.
C., D. “Espèces Menacées.” L’Actualité 1 Oct. 2012: 8. Print.
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Nathan. “Arctic Sea Ice May Disappear Within 4 Years, According To One Of The World’s Leading Sea Ice Researchers.” Planetsave. WordPress, 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <http://planetsave.com/2012/09/21/arctic-sea-ice-may-disappear-within-4-years-according-to-one-of-the-worlds-leading-sea-ice-researchers/>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. “Daily Sea Ice during Aug & Sept 2012 with Winds.” SVS Animation 3992 – Daily Sea Ice during Aug & Sept 2012 with Winds. N.p., Sept. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003900/a003992/index.html>.
“Poles Apart: A Record-breaking Summer and Winter.” Nsidc.org. University of Colorado, 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/>.
Rincon, Paul. “Record Minimum for Arctic Sea Ice.” BBC News. BBC, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19652329>.
Watts, Susan. “Arctic Ice Melt Like Adding 20 Years of CO2 Emissions'” BBC News. BBC, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. 4 Oct. 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19496674>.
Featured Image Photo Credits: The Guardian Newspaper