Arctic Warming: Only the tip of the Iceberg

by Frederique Laprise on September 13, 2017 - 3:21pm

By Christine Vo, Frederique Laprise and Viviane Nguyen

Arctic Warming: Only the tip of the Iceberg


Global warming has been an issue since the industrialisation era, where our emission of CO2 began being critically high. The artic has not been immune to climate change, being one of the primary victim of this modern crisis. What are the consequences and issues linked to the warming of the Arctic?


Melting of the ice caps:


Global warming might be a common phenomenon all around the globe but the temperature of the Arctic Ocean is increasing twice as fast as any other part of the world. One of the warming signs observed is that the Arctic summer ice has drastically melted in 2016. Its size reached a record as the second lowest ever documented in history. As the Arctic melts, its configuration changes, which plays a role in the feedback loop of global warming.


Ice in the Arctic is important because it has an Albedo effect, which means that the snow reflects heat radiation from the sun back to space, preventing the earth of heating. However, with the melting ice and polluted air, the snow is getting darker which means that the Arctic is absorbing heat instead of reflecting it. The more the ice absorbs heat, the more it melts. As it melts, more dark snow is exposed, creating a feedback loop.


Water in the liquid state takes a bigger volume than in its solid form, so when the Arctic ice melts, the sea level rises. When the ice melts or breaks away into the water it creates waves, detaching more ice from icebergs. Since the detached ice is more exposed to the sea, the melting process occurs faster, causing the water volume to increase.



Consequences of the melting ice:


As we all know, many nations live around the Arctic, and they are all expected to be affected by its warming. The darkening of the ice contributes to making the overall temperature rise, causing a series of unwanted consequences.


            In the south, hurricanes, strong winds, droughts and floods are the primary consequences of the Arctic warming. Weather events like hurricanes are becoming more and more frequent as the overall temperature of the seas rises. When these natural disasters occur, there are often a lot of damage done to cities, homes, stores, and more. This also comes to affect the economy as people in the affected areas can’t work during these events, and they often suffer great financial loss as their homes get destroyed.


            In the north, intense winters and harsh weather have become more frequent. Not only are winters getting shorter, but also colder. This impacts the population directly by affecting transportation, physical activity, and other. People tend to stay inside and eventually need to heat their houses more, which contributes to CO2 emissions.


            How can the melting ice in the Arctic create all these issues? Well, as the ice melts, the artic gets warmer and consequently the difference of temperature between the north and south diminishes greatly. This affects the jet stream winds, making them weaker, bringing cold air to the south, and warm air to the north. Altogether, this will come to affect the Arctic ecosystem and wildlife, leaving it damaged to a point of no return.



Consequences on the wildlife of the Arctic:


            Furthermore, let's not forget about how global warming represents an enormous problem for Arctic wildlife. While the temperatures are rising, the sea ice is shrinking. Thus, ice dependent species such as narwhals, polar bears and seals are at an increasing risk, as they struggle to adapt to new ground, changing food availability, new predators and competitors. In fact, rising temperatures have brought more killer whales that prey on other whales such as narwhals and bowhead whales. By 2100, polar bears could face starvation and reproductive failure. Moreover, not only do these species play a critical role in the functioning of the ecosystem, but they are also important for the culture and subsistence economies of northern hunting communities.



            Finally, it is estimated that by 2080 all of the Arctic summer ice will have disappeared completely. Melting ice causes rise of water temperature, weakens jet stream winds, and affects the wildlife. We need to take care of our planet while we still can.