Monday, January 16, 2006
Problems up north??
Well, since I have already posted a thread about global warming, I will continue along that theme. This time, however, I will talk about the receding arctic ice. The ice is disappearing, and scientists predict that the Arctic Ocean could be completely devoid of ice during summertime within our lifetimes. This has serious implications for global climate, which I will touch upon later. While scientists are still debating as to whether or not we have passed an ice threshold, there is evidence that suggests that ice cover has been decreasing about 8 percent annually since 1980. There are 2 reasons for this ice decrease, one of which is the increase in global temperature. Data shows that Arctic temperatures have spiked by 2.1 degrees over the last quarter century, which is massive in comparison to the approximately .3 degree increase in lower latitudes. This increase leads to less ice cover in the Arctic, which has serious implications for more ice loss. What happens now, is that there is more open ocean and less ice cover. When there is ample ice, the light color of ice and snow reflect most of the sun's energy back into the atmosphere. However, with more open ocean exposed, its dark color of the water absorbs the heat, preventing ice formation and leading to less ice during the summer months. This is problematic because once the critical point of ice cover is surpassed, even all the efforts aimed toward slowing global warming will not prevent the Arctic from being ice free.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the melting of the Arctic ice will have serious implications on the global climate. The loss of ice has to be made up somewhere, and even if sea levels do not rise catastrophically, there could be enough dilution of the ocean water to change circulation patterns. This creates a problem, and I won't go into the details here about the ocean circulation, but you should look it up if you don't know enough about it, because ocean circulation is largely responsible for global heat balance. When salinities change, it can alter thermohaline circulation, disrupting currents that bring warm water from the tropics northward toward the Arctic and England. Although the amount of freshwater needed to dilute the ocean enough to change these circulations is great, and melting Arctic ice may not be quite enough, it can contribute significantly, since the water will absorb the sun's heat, the Arctic would become measurably milder during the summer months, which could lead to loss of land ice, and that WILL create problems for ocean circulation. The last cooling period of the earth was caused by such an event, when an ice dam in Canada broke, releasing glacial melt water that diluted the North Atlantic enough to change these circulations, and bring a centuries long period of cooler temperatures throughout Europe. While disappearing Arctic ice may not cause this directly, it could contribute to a similar situation and is something that should be more carefully monitored.
The shame of it is there is a wealth of information supporting global warming and yet the supposed wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world still fails to acknowledge that it exists. And instead of trying to do things to try and help slow or stop these trends, Americans go own wasting like its their jobs, buying gas-guzzling SUVs, trucks and sports cars, running hundreds of household appliances, etc, instead of buying smart appliances, using mass transit and urging representatives to do something about it. Biodesiel is a viable green energy option and instead of mass producing it, Washington would rather pay farmers in the Midwest to not farm, instead of farming corn which could be used to make a biofuel. What are we doing??? I urge all of us to ride a bike or take a bus to work, unplug all household electronics (except your refrigerator which is necessary), but TV,vcrs, computers, microwaves, anything that constantly draws amps, and talking to fellow Americans and writing your congressman. These are things we need to do to solve this problem before it gets any worse.
I used Envirolink and NewScientist as sources and the picture is from Eurekalert