Global warning in record Arctic sea ice loss
Arctic sea ice cover melted to its lowest extent in 30 years this week, breaking the previous record low observed in 2007. This record low level, announced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the United States, has ramifications for the world, including Australia.
The extent of Arctic sea ice is now below 4 million square kilometres. Compared to September conditions in the 1980s and 1990s, this represents a 45% reduction in the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice. Scientists consider the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by 2030 or even earlier.
The melting of Arctic sea ice doesn’t directly affect sea level, because the ice is already floating on water. However, it contributes to rapid temperature increases in the Arctic. Ice reflects much more sunlight back to space than water. As the amount of sea ice decreases, more sunlight is absorbed by ocean water which heats the surface of the water and atmosphere above it. Temperatures in the Arctic region are rising at double the global average temperature increase.
This rapid temperature increase has flow-on effects that reach well beyond the Arctic.
- Warming is causing loss of ice from the Greenland ice sheet which contributes to a rise in global sea level.
- Some areas of permafrost (frozen soil) in northern Russia and Alaska are melting, releasing the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide.
- Changes in the amount of sea ice affect global ocean circulation which has an important influence on the climate.
For more information:
- Download the Climate Commission’s summary paper
- Read the full media release
- Go to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
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- 19 June 2013 - Gold Coast Community Forum