This is so sad it Makes The World Cry:
Arctic air temperatures
hit record highs
- 13:11 17 October 2008
- NewScientist.com news service
- New Scientist staff and Reuters
Autumn air temperatures have climbed to record levels in the Arctic due to major losses of sea ice as the region suffers more effects from a warming trend dating back decades, according to a new report.
The annual report issued by researchers at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other experts is the latest to paint a dire picture of the impact of climate change in the Arctic.
It found that autumn air temperatures are at a record 5 °C above normal in the Arctic because of the major loss of sea ice in recent years, which allows more solar heating of the ocean.
That warming of the air and ocean impacts land and marine life and cuts the amount of winter sea ice that lasts into the following summer, says the report.
The report adds that surface ice is melting in Greenland and that wild reindeer, or caribou, herds appear to be declining in numbers.
“Changes in the Arctic show a domino effect from multiple causes more clearly than in other regions,” says James Overland, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle and one of the authors of the report.
“It’s a sensitive system and often reflects changes in relatively fast and dramatic ways,” he says.
Researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, part of the University of Colorado, recently reported that, this summer, Arctic sea ice melted to its second-lowest level ever.
The 2008 season, those researchers said, strongly reinforces a 30-year downward trend in Arctic ice extent – 34% below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000, but 9% above the record low set in 2007.
Last year was the warmest on record in the Arctic, continuing a region-wide warming trend dating to the mid-1960s. Most experts blame climate change on human activities spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Then there is this longer piece in The Independent;
Record 22C temperatures in Arctic heatwave
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
The high temperatures on the island caused catastrophic mudslides as the permafrost on hillsides melted, Professor Lamoureux said. “The landscape was being torn to pieces, literally before our eyes.”
Other parts of the Arctic also experienced higher-than-normal temperatures, which indicate that the wider polar region may have experienced its hottest summer on record, according to Walt Meir of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.
“It’s been warm, with temperatures about 3C or 4C above normal for June, July and August, particularly to the north of Siberia where the temperatures have reached between 4C and 5C above average,” Dr Meir said.
Unusually clear skies over the Arctic this summer have caused temperatures to rise. More sunlight has exacerbated the loss of sea ice, which fell to a record low of 4.28 million square kilometres (1.65 million square miles), some 39 per cent below the long-term average for the period 1979 to 2000. Dr Meir said: “While the decline of the ice started out fairly slowly in spring and early summer, it accelerated rapidly in July. By mid-August, we had already shattered all previous records for ice extent.”
An international team of scientists on board the Polar Stern, a research ship operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, also felt the effects of an exceptionally warm Arctic summer. The scientists had anticipated that large areas of the Arctic would be covered by ice with a thickness of about two metres, but found that it had thinned to just one metre.
Instead of breaking through thicker ice at an expected speed of between 1 and 2 knots, the Polar Stern managed to cruise at 6 knots through thin ice and sometimes open water.
“We are in the midst of a phase of dramatic change in the Arctic,” said Ursula Schauer, the chief scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, who was on board the Polar Stern expedition. “The ice cover of the North Polar Sea is dwindling, the ocean and the atmosphere are becoming steadily warmer, the ocean currents are changing,” she said.
One scientist came back from the North Pole and reported that it was raining there, said David Carlson, the director of International Polar Year, the effort to highlight the climate issues of the Arctic and Antarctic. “It makes you wonder whether anyone has ever reported rain at the North Pole before.”
Another team of scientists monitoring the movements of Ayles Ice Island off northern Canada reported that it had broken in two far earlier than expected, a further indication of warmer temperatures. And this summer, for the first time, an American sailing boat managed to traverse the North-west Passage from Nova Scotia to Alaska, a voyage usually made by icebreakers. Never before has a sail-powered vessel managed to get straight through the usually ice-blocked sea passage.
Inhabitants of the region are also noticing a significant change as a result of warmer summers, according to Shari Gearheard, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre. “People who live in the region are noticing changes in sea ice. The earlier break-up and later freeze-up affect when and where people can go hunting, as well as safety for travel,” she said.
Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, said: “We may see an ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer within our lifetimes. The implications… are disturbing.”
The North-west Passage: an ominous sign
The idea of a North-west Passage was born in 1493, when Pope Alexander VI divided the discovered world between Spain and Portugal, blocking England, France and Holland from a sea route to Asia. As it became clear a passage across Europe was impossible, the ambitious plan was hatched to seek out a route through north-western waters, and nations sent out explorers. When, in the 18th century, James Cook reported that Antarctic icebergs produced fresh water, the view that northern waters were not impossibly frozen was encouraged. In 1776 Cook himself was dispatched by the Admiralty with an Act promising a £20,000 prize, but he failed to push through a route north of Canada. His attempt preceded several British expeditions including a famous Victorian one by Sir John Franklin in 1845. Finally, in 1906 Roald Amundsen led the first trip across the passage to Alaska, and since then a number of fortified ships have followed. On 21 August this year, the North-west Passage was opened to ships not armed with icebreakers for the first time since records began.