23 September 2012
Since the start of tracking the ice melt in the Arctic sea since 1979, it has been confirmed that the ice has melted to the lowest extent ever reported. Before the year 2050, many experts believe the arctic will be completely free of sea ice, so experts even think it will be gone before 2020. "While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur," (Llanos). The difference between this year's low and that of 2007 is 293,000 square miles which equals out to be the same size of Texas. “In the 1980s summer sea ice would cover an area slightly smaller than the Lower 48 states. Now it is about half that,” (Associated Press).
On September 16th, 2012 experts estimated that the minimum extent for the ice melt was 1.32 million square miles, or 24 percent of the Arctic Ocean. “As the summer ends and the long Arctic winter commences, the sea ice will reform, but every major melt season like this one flushes out more of the old, thick multi-year ice, replacing it with thin layers that will melt that much more easily next summer,” (Time). If in fact this is true, it will continue a long-term melting trend that dates back to 1979. The ice also appears to be getting thinner and weaker as well. “There is plentiful data to suggest that the ice is thinning as well as shrinking in the area. It is a downward spiral because after successive seasons of thinner ice, each [year] gets worse than the one before it,” (Walsh). The most accurate way truly tell how thin the ice is getting is by drilling. "This involves simply poking a tape measure down a hole, drilling in the ice to note both the total depth of the ice and the thickness of the freeboard [the ice above the water line]," (Walsh). Researchers are also working with laser 3-D scanners that enable them to capture a high-resolution replica of an ice floe, allowing them to take the ice back to the lab. The data gives researchers a much deeper understanding of what's happening to Arctic ice. Satellites struggle to measure ice below the water level, which is where most of the ice is.
What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. As the Arctic continues to warm, it will add increased heat and moisture into the climate system. “What happens in the Arctic changes climate all over the rest of the world, scientists have reported in studies,” (Associated Press). Scientists believe it is the cause of the greater extremes of weather in the northern hemisphere. Regardless of when the ice is completely gone, it is clear the “Last Frontier” is now becoming the first frontier of climate change. And what is going to happen as society keeps adding carbon emissions to the atmosphere and the climate keeps warming? “Some scientists worry that Arctic sea ice may be going from a downward spiral to a "death spiral," one from which there is no escape even if we can manage to reduce carbon emissions,” (Walsh). It is clear the scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency but it is hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on. A prime concern is the potential for a large rise in the level of the world’s oceans. The decline of the Arctic sea ice does not contribute directly to that problem, since the ice is already floating therefore displacing its weight in water. As more ice melts, more dark water is exposed, which allows the region to absorb more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice. The extra heat in the ocean appears to be contributing to an accelerating melt of the nearby Greenland ice sheet, which does contribute to the rise in sea level. The Arctic sea ice is one of the most sensitive of nature's thermometers. The ice essentially acts like an air...
Cited: Associated Press. "Fosters.com - Dover NH, Rochester NH, Portsmouth NH, Laconia NH, Sanford ME." Fosters.com - Dover NH, Rochester NH, Portsmouth NH, Laconia NH, Sanford ME. Fosters.com, 23 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. .
Llanos, Miguel. "Arctic Sea Ice Reaches New Low, Shattering Record Set Just 3 Weeks Ago." World News. NBC News, 20 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. .
Time. "1.32 Million Sq. Miles." TIME.com. Time Magazine, 20 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. .
Walsh, Bryan. "Farewell to the Arctic as We Know It." Time. 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. .
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