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Study Finds That Reductions in Sea Ice Cover and Thickness Is The Major Cause of Polar Warming Amplification

In a process called polar amplification, the polar regions have been warming faster than the tropics. Although some research has attributed that amplification to upper-atmosphere transport processes, a new study by researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia, now shows that reductions in sea ice cover and thickness—due to rapid melting— are responsible for most of the recent polar amplification.

A paper on their work was published in the 29 April issue of the journal Nature.

The sea ice acts like a shiny lid on the Arctic Ocean. When it is heated, it reflects most of the incoming sunlight back into space. When the sea ice melts, more heat is absorbed by the water. The warmer water then heats the atmosphere above it. What we found is this feedback system has warmed the atmosphere at a faster rate than it would otherwise.

—Lead author Dr. James Screen

Using the latest observational data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting, Screen was able to uncover a distinctive pattern of warming, highly consistent with the loss of sea ice.

Resources

  • James A. Screen & Ian Simmonds (2010) The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification. Nature, Vol. 464, No. 7293, p1334 doi: 10.1038/nature09051

Comments

HarveyD

If this is correct, it will have a snowball effect until all arctic ocean ice is melted away. Northern Canada, Alaska, Northern Russia and other Norther countries could benefit from warmer climate in the future. How abrupt and how long will this warm cycle last and how long will it take to trigger the next cold cycle?

drivin98

I don't see how warming of this sort could benefit them. Sounds a lot more disruptive and destructive to me.

Nick Lyons

@HarveyD:

I live in Alaska, and I'm aware of many of the effects of warming, which include:

* Beetle infestations decimating large swaths of the boreal forests (taiga), leading to more frequent forest fires.

* Coastal erosion forcing the relocation of native villages.

* Disruptions to seasonal migration patterns for marine mammals (e.g. walrus, polar bear) due to reduced ice cover.

* Thawing of permafrost, which is undermining roads and house foundations. More significantly, increasing releases of methane are being found from the thawing tundra and bubbling up through lakes.

On the plus side, the Arctic Ocean will become a shipping channel during summer and growing seasons for agriculture (currently tiny part of the economy) are getting longer. When Alaska starts exporting wine and fresh fruit, and the only polar bears are in zoos, you'll know that AGW has had its way with the far north.

Reel$$

OMG yawn... No one buys this climate BS anymore.

Sanity Chk

Reel$$: Of course no one buys your climate change denial BS anymore. What do you take most people for - Idiots?

The facts are clear, and you yawning and OMGing won't stop the glaciers and polar ice from melting, and won't reverse the increasing ocean acidification.

Get Real guy!

ai_vin

@ Sanity Chk

While I agree with your views I always take a pause when someone/anyone says 'no one.....'

That implies everyone feels the same way as the poster - which we know is not ever true.

Reel$$

aivin is correct - "no one" is an exaggeration. The fact remains the public perception of "climate change" continues to skew skeptical:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/23/british-public-belief-climate-poll

i.e. a collective yawn.

ai_vin

That only points to how ill-informed the public is. For example I saw a poll that found "Forty-five percent of Americans agree that God created man in his present form about 10,000 years ago." And another poll said the same number didn't know the sun was a star.

sulleny

A doubtful approach to any science theory is healthy.

ai_vin

True, but denial of 150 years of research and gathering evidence is not.

aym

What the publlic thinks it knows and what is factual science are very different things. And frankly if thats what you're trying to do, it's a disservice but then looking at your posts, here and the past, that's no surprise.

It is one thing to be doubtfull. It's another to take an opposite/contrary view and just look for evidence.

AGW is accepted and supported by every recognized scientific organzation in the world. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Meanwhile the deniers keep dredging up "evidence" that couldn't be used in grade school.

Sanity Chk

ai vin, you are right to point this out. I should have put the phrase in quotations since it was parroted from Real$$'s post - My bad.

Citing a public opinion poll speaks volumes about Real$$ success measure. The implication of his statement is that when enough people agree with him, he is happy and subsequently, there is nothing more to discuss ("a collective yawn"). Since when is a scientific discussion settled by a public opinion poll?

Public opinion polls may be manipulated to produce heavily skewed results by simply changing the way in which questions are phrased. Further, public opinion is influenced less by science than by media these days - a sad reflection on an education system that graduates students with poor science and critical thinking skills.

sulleny, the very cornerstone of the scientific method is skepticism - driving the process of independent validation and verification of empirical methods and data. When a theory has been vetted as thoroughly as AGW by thousands of researchers over decades of time, across multiple disciplines, and using many orthogonal data sets, then we can truly rely on what it is telling us. Doesn't mean that it is flawless but at this stage it is unlikely that any errors discovered would affect the general findings and conclusions. They would instead serve to refine our understanding.

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