Rising global temperatures are melting Arctic sea ice away, which can in turn lead to even higher global temperatures.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed a new meaning to the term “glacial”. They claim that instead of describing something happening very slowly, “glacial” should now describe something happening that's “rapidly diminishing”.
They have a point. Sea ice in the Arctic has reached a record low, with only 2.14 million square kilometers of ice currently remaining. Last year, there were still about 4.1 million square kilometers of Arctic ice at sea. Even then, scientists considered 4.1 million square kilometers to be a very small amount. Once the ice falls to below a million square kilometers, scientists will declare the Arctic to be ice-free. It will be the first time that the Arctic is ice-free since 100,000 years ago.
Researchers at the University of Exeter recently published a paper on the effects of global warming on Arctic ice. According to the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries should keep global warming below 2ºC. In fact, we should try to keep it to 1.5ºC as closely as possible. This is to keep the planet away from more dangerous temperatures.
According to the research, “there is less than a one-in-100,000 chance of an ice-free Arctic if global warming stays below 1.5C, and around a one-in-three chance if global warming is limited to 2C.”
Scientists do expect Arctic ice to melt, but not at this rate. According to scientific predictions, it's much too early for there to be so little ice in the Arctic sea. This can have many consequences, some of which involve changing weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. Warm air from the Atlantic and cold air from the Arctic may combine and create massive storms. Storms of this magnitude are very often disastrous to human populations.
There's also a very big chance that the disappearing sea ice will heat up the planet even more. Arctic ice reflects heat energy from the sun back into space, while water absorbs it. As the ice melts, the surface area of water increases. This means that more and more energy from the sun is absorbed, further increasing global warming.
Sea levels will also rise at a faster rate, giving numerous species a very short time to adapt to the changes. Humanity won't be spared as well. Bangladesh, among other countries, is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels. Scientists estimate that rising seas will make millions of people around the world homeless by 2050.
So is there hope for the Arctic sea ice? Scientists aren't very optimistic, but there are measures in place to slow the rapid melting of Arctic ice. The Paris Agreement on climate change should be able to set a guideline on how countries can stall the effects of global warming. Scientists aren't as optimistic, especially at the rate global warming is going. However, the possibility of an ice-free Arctic will hopefully be another wake up call to the countries of the world.
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