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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Artic Ice Melting Faster Than Predicted

This weekend, a report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center was featured on NPR's Living on Earth (click here to listen to the segment) reporting that the ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting much faster than climate models have predicted. This indicates that there are significant feedback systems in the Arctic that are not accounted for in even the most worst-cast climate models. Click here to read more about this from the NSIDC website.

The graph below, from the NSICD website, shows how the area covered by sea ice (shown in red) is falling faster than even the standard deviation of the predictions of climate models.

The problem with melting arctic ice is that ice reflects most of the suns energy back to space. When ice is replaced by dark ocean area, the ocean absorbs more heat. This is not good news.

The biggest fear that I have is that this type of deviation from climate predictions will become increasingly apparent as time goes on. If this happens, we may already be too late to stop significant climate change. There is also the chance - as suggested in the audio clip - that we will reach a tipping point where we will suddenly be faced with significant climate changes rather than the gradual change that we all expect. This is why it is so important that we begin the transition away from carbon-based energy.

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