Friday, March 16, 2007

Melting Ice

From Science Daily:

Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at CU-Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center who led the study synthesizing results from recent research, said the Arctic sea-ice extent trend has been negative in every month since 1979, when concerted satellite record keeping efforts began. The team attributed the loss of ice, about 38,000 square miles annually as measured each September, to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases and strong natural variability in Arctic sea ice.

"When the ice thins to a vulnerable state, the bottom will drop out and we may quickly move into a new, seasonally ice-free state of the Arctic," Serreze said. "I think there is some evidence that we may have reached that tipping point, and the impacts will not be confined to the Arctic region."

A review paper by Serreze and Julienne Stroeve of CU-Boulder's NSIDC and Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research titled "Perspectives on the Arctic's Shrinking Sea Ice Cover" appears in the March 16 issue of Science.

The loss of Arctic sea ice is most often tied to negative effects on wildlife like polar bears and increasing erosion of coastlines in Alaska and Siberia, he said. But other studies have linked Arctic sea ice loss to changes in atmospheric patterns that cause reduced rainfall in the American West or increased precipitation over western and southern Europe, he said.

The decline in Arctic sea ice could impact western states like Colorado, for example, by reducing the severity of Arctic cold fronts dropping into the West and reducing snowfall, impacting the ski industry and agriculture, he said. "Just how things will pan out is unclear, but the bottom line is that Arctic sea ice matters globally," Serreze said

.The picture, by the way, is from a source aptly called Damocles, which processes data on Arctic melting. Damocles is funded by the European Commission.


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