Melting ice caps are the canaries in the coal mines for the probable and impending global climate catastrophe. Arctic ice sheets endured record-breaking melt this summer with the annual thaw of the region’s floating ice reaching the lowest level since satellite monitoring began more than 30 years ago.
Kim Holmen, international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, said to the BBC: “It is a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. And it has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us.” It is a run-on sentence that betrays the mounting anxiety scientists feel as governments around the world fail to heed their increasingly dire warnings.
“As a scientist, I know that this is unprecedented in at least as much as 1,500 years,” said Dr. Edmond Hansen, a researcher with the institute. “It is truly amazing—it is a huge dramatic change in the system.”
“This is not some short-lived phenomenon—this is an ongoing trend. You lose more and more ice and it is accelerating—you can just look at the graphs, the observations, and you can see what’s happening.”
Researchers say the melting will not continue at a constant pace. The rate of melting increases as frozen water becomes liquid, just as ice cubes melt slowly at first and then faster as they become smaller and the water around them warms up.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Where the ice vanishes entirely, the surface loses its usual highly reflective whiteness - which sends most solar radiation back into space - and is replaced by darker waters instead which absorb more heat.
According to Dr Gerland, additional warming can take place even if ice remains in a far thinner state.
… “If the ice is thinner there is more light penetrating and that light can heat the water.”
NOAA's National Ocean Service (CC BY 2.0)