Quantcast

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

Climate

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

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A dire new report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that the climate crisis is on a worrying trajectory as the crisis's hallmarks — sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather — all increased over the last five years, which will end as the warmest five-year period on record.

Read More Show Less
Line of soldiers walking. Pexels

By Peter Gleick

War is a miserable thing. It kills and maims soldiers and civilians. It destroys infrastructure, cultures and communities. It worsens poverty and development challenges. And it damages and cripples vital ecological and environmental resources.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
People take part in a ceremony to mark the 'death' of the Pizol glacier on Sept. 22. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

Hundreds of activists gathered in the Swiss Alps on Sunday to mourn the loss of Pizol, a glacier that has steadily retreated over the last decade as temperatures have warmed the mountain tops, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Luis Alfonso de Alba Gongora, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit speaks at The World Economic Forum holds the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2018 in New York on Sept. 24, 2018. Ben Hider / World Economic Forum

By Howard LaFranchi

When United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decided to hold a high-level climate summit in conjunction with this year's General Assembly kicking off next week, he was well aware of the paradox of his initiative.

Read More Show Less
Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan meets with Guatemalan farmers on May 29 in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. John Moore / Getty Images

The Trump administration ignored its own evidence on how climate change is impacting migration and food security when setting new policies for cutting aid to Central America, NBC reports.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mike Pence brought the first motorcade to Mackinac Island on Saturday. Cars have been banned on the island since 1898. 13 ON YOUR SIDE / YouTube screenshot

Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.

Read More Show Less
Inhaling from an electronic cigarette. 6okean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Shawn Radcliffe

  • As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
  • Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
  • Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
The number of vaping-related illnesses has grown to 530 cases in 38 states and 1 U.S. territory, federal health officials reported.
Read More Show Less
Activist Greta Thunberg leads the Youth Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in New York City. Roy Rochlin / WireImage / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.

Read More Show Less