Arctic Melt

According to an October 2, 2007, article in the New York Times, the Arctic ice cap shrank so much in the summer of2007 that it opened two previously ice-bound historic trade routes: the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia. This melt was more excessive than anything seen before, exposing 1 million cubic miles (4,168,182 km3) of open water.

This event has captured climatologists' attention because the major meltdowns had not been predicted. They determined the event was a combination of moving and melting ice. Son Nghiem, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is using satellite data and buoys to show that winds since 2000 have pushed huge amounts of ice out of the Arctic Basin past Greenland. Thin ice that has formed since has been easily melted or broken free by the wind and movement. What climatologists were surprised to find was that the Arctic responded faster to climate change than they initially thought.

According to NASA, what has scientists especially concerned is that they cannot find any data to indicate the Arctic has responded like this in the past; it has only been since human-induced global warming that the ice has begun to melt and shift this rapidly, adding credence to the fact that humans may have "tipped the balance" and caused irreversible climate change. There are several factors involved, including heat-trapping clouds, increased ocean warmth from clear skies, warm winds blowing off of Siberia, currents and winds pushing ice out of the Arctic Ocean, and alternating wind and pressure circulation patterns over the Arctic Ocean, called the Arctic Oscillation. They agree that more refined modeling is needed to make more definite conclusions.

As technology advances and scientists continue researching the complexities of climate change, new discoveries will continue to be made. These will help society better deal with the challenges of global warming ahead.

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