The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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."
“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
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.
By Tara Lohan
When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.
A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.
In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.