Earth & Science

Arctic Continues to Warm at Unprecedented Rate

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Arctic areas continue to warm at an alarming rate threatening animal populations and affecting weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. This is the message released today in the annual Arctic Report Card.

As ice retracts earlier in the summer, polar bears risk entrapment in areas too warm for them to hunt in. Photo: Alastair Rae, CC.

According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a team of 69 scientists responsible for the Arctic Report Card, signs of warming are ubiquitous. Particularly around Greenland where rapid ice melts and loss of glaciers continue to prevail.

This summer, says the report, sea ice extent declined to its third lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979. And its thickness continued to thin.

To polar bears, news of warming brings chilling messages. Already reported to suffer from pollution and related reductions in fertility levels by Norwegian scientists, the polar bears will be threatened on yet another front as sea ice extent continues to decline. Depending on sea ice for hunting, the Arctic population of polar bears will risk confinement and starvation as ice flakes break off and more bears will have to hunt for food in the same areas.

Further, as sea ice begins to retract earlier in the summer, polar bears risk missing their ride back to the Arctic after winter hibernation and could find themselves landlocked in areas where they will be unfit to hunt. Chasing prey away from the cool Arctic summer, biologists say, polar bears will overheat within minutes.

Evidence suggest conditions will worsen. According to Jim White, director of INSTAAR in Boulder, CO, 25 percent of fossil fuel related greenhouse gases were emitted since 1997 when the Kyoto protocol was signed. And emissions continue to climb in an exponential rate.

Already in August this year, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon admitted pessimism for the up-coming climate summit in Cancun.

The above video explains the foundation of the Arctic Report Card 2010 (with a peculiar mechanical voice over.)

Link to NOAA graphics portraying seasonal shifts in Arctic ice extent and declines during recent years.

Written by Earth & Science

October 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

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