29 October 2009

Why The Vanishing Polar Ice Cap Will Impact You

Posted by Dan Satterfield


The folks at the National Snow and Ice Data Center have released some new data on the polar ice as we head into late autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The ice pack is retreating at a rate of about 11.2% per decade, and Dr. Mark Serezze, the director of the NSIDC says that we are just a few decades away from a mostly ice free August in the Arctic Ocean.

N_timeseriesThis summer’s ice was the third lowest on record, but the ice is growing very slowly as we head into Winter. The lowest amount of sea ice was recorded in Sept. 2007. The sudden drop two years ago was stunning, and the data today shows we are very close to the same level of ice now as in late October of 2007.

It’s worth remembering that greenhouse gases are the long term control of the sea ice, but it varies each year with weather patterns and ocean currents. El Nino years and La Nina years also have their effects.

NASA has produced a really good video on why the dropping sea ice is so worrisome. To say that there is an intense amount of science being done on the ice pack at the top of the world, would be a gross understatement.

It’s quite likely that the diminishing ice is already changing weather patterns over North America. My friend Stu Ostro at the Weather Channel has been working hard to document this in a statistical way. He makes a powerful argument that the strange storm tracks that meteorologists have noticed over the last few years, are not just the normal variety of weather.

Check out the NASA video. It’s an excellent resource for teachers. You can click on the video and go to the HD version.

This weekend, I will post a summary of some of the recent climate science which caught my eye.