Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Will the Arctic Be Ice-Free Within the Next Two Decades?

Climate
Will the Arctic Be Ice-Free Within the Next Two Decades?

By David Appell

When sea ice melts, the ocean loses its reflective surface and the dark water absorbs more heat.

“The Arctic is a region that's probably seen some of the most dramatic changes over the past few decades. And I think possibly one of the most iconic images is the decline in the Arctic sea ice." That's Kristina Pistone of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames Research Center. She said melting Arctic sea ice is not only a symptom of global warming, it's also an important contributor because of the “albedo effect."

Photo credit: NASA / Kathryn Hansen

“Albedo is basically the whiteness of something. So if you think about sea ice, it's very white, it's very bright and very reflective. It will reflect a lot of the sunlight that hits it back to space. And you can compare this to the ocean surface, which is a very dark surface, it absorbs a lot of the heat that hits it," she said.

So when Arctic sea ice melts, the underlying ocean water absorbs more of the sun's energy and heats up. That, in turn, melts more sea ice.

Since 1979, more than 600,000 square miles of winter sea ice has disappeared—an area more than twice as big as Texas.

Pistone said that rate of loss could lead to ice-free summers in the Arctic within the next two decades. Which would be tragic for local ecosystems, accelerate global warming and affect weather patterns worldwide.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Obama and Nordic Leaders Agree Economic Activity in Arctic Must Pass Climate Test

NASA: Last Month Was Warmest April Ever Recorded, Marking Seven Months of New Highs

Big Oil Abandons the Arctic, Obama Under Pressure to Do More to Protect the Region

Arctic Ice Melt Affects Weather Patterns All Over North Atlantic

Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth on April 2, 2012 in Western Australia. James D. Morgan / Getty Images News

By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge

In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A 3-hour special film by EarthxTV calls for protection of the Amazon and its indigenous populations. EarthxTV.org

To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.

Read More Show Less

Trending

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
New Delhi's smog is particularly thick, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?

Read More Show Less
A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Read More Show Less