a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Arctic ice cap loss accelerates

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 5th, 2007

Loss of Arctic ice leaves experts stunned, the Guardian’s David Adam reports:

The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows, scientists have announced. Experts say they are ‘stunned’ by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the Northwest passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the Northeast passage along Russia’s Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.

As Daily Kos diarist “Barcelona” points out, since ice reflects sunlight and open water absorbs it, this isn’t just a symptom of global warming, but a cause of it as well — the process is self-accelerating. Speaking with Elizabeth Kolbert for her 2005 New Yorker series on climate change, scientist Don Perovich put it this way:

“Not only is the albedo of the snow-covered ice high; it’s the highest of anything we find on earth,” he went on. “And not only is the albedo of water low; it’s pretty much as low as anything you can find on earth. So what you’re doing is you’re replacing the best reflector with the worst reflector.”

The Guardian article seems to bear this out:

The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began thirty years ago, and the rate of loss has accelerated sharply since 2002.

We got a Prius this spring, for what little that’s worth. (We like it a lot, too, though average mileage seems to be more like 40mpg than 50mpg, judging by the car’s instrumentation.) But we need to keep looking around for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

Or our warming footprint: maybe put aluminum foil on our roof? Or maybe we should all really start wearing those tinfoil hats we talk about a lot. Desperate times require desperate humor.

One Response to “Arctic ice cap loss accelerates”

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