Arctic ice fighting losing battle against global warming, new studies show

By Anu Passary, Tech Times | February 3, 10:27 PM

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Arctic ice

With an increase in global warming, the Arctic is warming two times faster than the rest of the Earth.
(Photo : U.S. Geological Survey)

With an increase in global warming, the Arctic is warming two times faster than the rest of the Earth.

According to a new study entitled "Future Arctic Climate Changes: Adaptation and Mitigation Timescales," the temperatures in the Arctic will rise faster than the middle-latitudes in the Earth. This owing to the higher emission of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere.

The study was conducted by James Overland with three other scientists from the University of Washington, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The scientists used computer models to forecast the effects of the varied greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

"The climate in the Arctic is changing faster than in mid-latitudes. This is shown by increased temperatures, loss of summer sea ice, earlier snow melt, impacts on ecosystems, and increased economic access. Arctic sea ice volume has decreased by 75 % since the 1980s. Long-lasting global anthropogenic forcing from CO2 has increased over the previous decades and is anticipated to increase over the next decades. Temperature increases in response to greenhouse gases are amplified in the Arctic through feedback processes associated with shifts in albedo, ocean and land heat storage, and near-surface longwave radiation fluxes," notes the study.

Such is the severity, that per the scientists, we could have an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer in the next few decades.

"It is very likely that the Arctic Ocean will become nearly seasonally sea ice free before 2050 and possibly within a decade or two, which in turn will further increase Arctic temperatures, economic access, and ecological shifts," warns the study.

In the event carbon emissions continue to increase at the current rate, then by the end of this century, scientists expect temperatures across the Arctic to rise by 23.4 degrees in late fall and by 9 degrees in late spring.

"Over the next 20 or 30 years, the fix is in," said Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author of the paper. "That means more access to drilling, shipping and resource exploration. But it's not very good news for polar bears or walruses that depend on the sea ice habitat."

However, scientists opine that a decrease in carbon emission could reduce Arctic warming nearly in half by the end of the century.

Another study published in the journal Natural Geoscience on February 2, suggests that the Arctic's cap of layered air too plays a pivotal role in fueling polar warming. The shallow layer of air that is stagnant acts like a lid and results in the concentration of heat near the surface.

The Arctic atmosphere apparently resembles like a "layer cake" when compared to the tropics. In the tropics, the thunderstorms are able to carry surface heat upwards for several miles, which in turn gets radiated into space. However, in the Arctic, the surface heat and air do not mix with the higher atmospheric air.

"In the Arctic, as the climate warms, most of the additional heat remains trapped in a shallow layer of the atmosphere close to the ground, not deeper than 1 or 2 kilometers [0.6 to 1.2 miles]," said Felix Pithan, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany and lead author of the study, to Live Science. "[This] makes the Arctic surface rather inefficient at getting rid of extra energy, and therefore it warms more than other regions when the entire planet is warming."

Moreover, per the study by Pithan and his colleagues, the ice-albedo effect also contributes to Arctic warming.

The new studies seem to suggest that the Arctic is fighting a losing battle against global warming. However, if we reduce carbon emission, then there is hope yet.

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