Sea ice reduction impacts the Arctic and Antarctic.

As mentioned previously the study, The Arctic and Antarctic: Two Faces of Climate Change was published today in EOS, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Loss of sea ice in the polar regions are expected to continue scientists say. The impact of this has far reaching consequences for both the Arctic and Antarctic

The Antarctic Sun, has some interesting articles that examine the functioning of sea ice. Peter Rejcek, Editor of Antarctic Sun, on April 18 discussed the impact of the loss of sea ice on the disintegration of the Wilkins Ice shelf. “The life cycle of winter sea ice since 1979 has dropped, on average, by three months per year around Palmer Station, meaning it forms later and melts earlier. Summer sea ice is virtually non-existent in the area, and perennial sea ice has also all but disappeared”. He quotes a noted scientist with NSIDC, Walt Meier:

“The sea ice plays a big role, and may have been the thing that triggered [the ice shelf collapse] this year,” Meier explained that the sea ice serves as a buffer between the ice shelf and ocean waves, which can pummel an unprotected ice shelf, causing it to flex, particularly if it has been weakened by melt ponds, pools of open water on the ice surface that absorb rather than reflect heat. “[Sea ice] acts as a damper on any ocean waves,” Meier said. “This year we almost had no sea ice for a significant amount of time during the summer along the Wilkins. That allows ocean waves to build up.”

Rejcek points to the changes in sea ice at Palmer Station.”The life cycle of winter sea ice since 1979 has dropped, on average, by three months per year around Palmer Station, meaning it forms later and melts earlier. Summer sea ice is virtually non-existent in the area, and perennial sea ice has also all but disappeared”.

Another article in the Antarctic Sun on April 4, “The score on sea ice,” outlined the importance of polar sea ice.

“The ice reflects light from the sun, but as it begins to melt, it reflects less sunlight back into space. Instead, the oceans and land absorb the light and heat, raising the overall temperature, and fueling further melting. This creates a positive feedback loop called an ice albedo feedback, which causes the loss of the sea ice to be self-perpetuating: The more it disappears, the more likely it is to continue to disappear.

In addition to helping regulate heat — serving as a sort of air conditioner for the planet — sea ice serves as a vital habitat for the Arctic’s polar bears. In the Antarctic, winter sea ice is important to links all across the food chain, from the shrimp-like krill at the bottom to Adélie penguins at the top.”

Both of these articles are worthwhile reading for those interested in the changes happening in the polar regions as a result of climate change. They highlight that changes that are happening as the oceans around the poles warm and the sea ice retreats. Most disturbing is the thought that this loss of sea ice may be self perpetuating and in the case of the Arctic so serious as to be not reversible. For all those who remain sceptical, I recommend these articles as well as the study findings which all present a wealth of information, pictures and satellite images regarding the current situation at the Poles.

The findings of the study can be downloaded as a Pdf from the NOAA page here.

Sea ice near Cape Adare, Antarctica.

Sea Ice

Photograph by: Mike Usher, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: January 21, 2005.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: This is another stunning photograph of an ice cave at Loudwater Cove on Anvers Island, near the Antarctic Peninsula.and. As mentioned previously, the photographs in this series come from the Antarctic Photo Library made available by the National Science Foundation at the U.S. Antarctic Program website.Blue Ice cave.

Photograph by: Zenobia Evans, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: July 24, 2000.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Tuesday, 6 May, 2008.

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