14 June, 2013

Earth’s melting polar ice has been speaking to scientists and the message is terrifying

In the seven years since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Box says that Earth’s melting polar ice has been speaking loudly and clearly to scientists—and the message is terrifying:
  • “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that we’re under-predicting the sensitivity of the cryosphere,” he says. “The ice is telling us that abrupt climate change is well underway. You’ll hear people say we’re going into uncharted territory, but that’s not correct. We are already in uncharted territory.”
  • Simply put, we’re melting the world’s ice-covered regions. And this extreme thaw is a problem for two big reasons. One, the excess water will cause sea levels to rise, thereby threatening countless coastal communities. And two, increasing amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere will effectively prime the pump for more and more extreme weather events.
  • In 2012, the Arctic ice cap shrank to a record low, with only 24 percent of the Arctic Ocean covered by ice, a 50 percent drop from 1979, when satellite observation began. And, since 1983, the Arctic has warmed more than any other place on the planet.
  • Even more alarming estimates predict that all of Greenland’s ice—both surface and subsurface—could vanish completely by 2100. And when this happens, residents around the globe will be displaced from their homes as sea levels rise.
  • “The polar areas used to be 90 percent frozen all summer; now, it’s 50 percent open ocean...”
  • Almost a quarter of the northern hemisphere is covered by permafrost. Entombed in this frozen ground is an awful lot of primordial organic material, mostly roots and leaves, which contains up to 1,700 gigatons of carbon—almost twice the quantity that’s currently in the atmosphere. Complicating matters, scientists aren’t yet sure of the gaseous form that the carbon in this prehistoric subterranean vault will take when the permafrost inevitably thaws.
 Is there any body, politicians and leaders in particular, listening? Read more and take part here: What the Ice Is Telling Us.

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