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

A plane sprays pesticide over the Wynwood neighborhood in the hope of controlling and reducing the number of mosquitos, some of which may be capable of spreading the Zika virus on Aug. 6, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A national nonprofit revealed Tuesday that testing commissioned by the group as well as separate analysis conducted by Massachusetts officials show samples of an aerially sprayed pesticide used by the commonwealth and at least 25 other states to control mosquito-borne illnesses contain toxic substances that critics call "forever chemicals."

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plants a tree as part of Trees That Count, a project to help New Zealand make a positive impact on climate change, on June 30, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

The government of New Zealand declared a climate emergency on Wednesday, a symbolic step recognizing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions of substantial global warming if emissions do not fall.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The youth-led Mock COP26 virtual conference concluded Tuesday with a treaty they hope world leaders will sign ahead of the official COP26 in November 2021.

Read More Show Less
Kids play on a flooded Arizona Avenue on October 4, 2015 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

The threat to affordable housing from flooding driven by climate change will likely triple in the next 30 years, new research shows.

Read More Show Less
A view from Hollywood Hills over downtown Los Angeles. 35007 / E+ / Getty Images

By Kelley Dennings

It's time to talk about something that most of us have been reluctant to face: what to do about the intensifying connection between population gain and environmental loss. A growing body of research shows continued human population growth equates to accelerating species extinction.

Read More Show Less