Lowering Arctic Sea Ice Levels: What Does This Mean For The Planet?
written by: Rose Kivi•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 4/15/2011
Satellite images show that Arctic ice is melting at a much faster rate than previously predicted. Scientist's are estimating that Arctic ice could be gone in as little as ten years. What does this mean for the planet?
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Increased global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases are causing summer Arctic ice to melt at a quick rate. Ice that previously did not melt in the summer is melting and not reforming in the winter. Due to increased water temperatures and air temperatures, the ice is melting from the bottom underneath the water as well as from the top above the water, thinning the ice. Thinner ice is more susceptible to melting in warm temperatures.
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The melting of Arctic ice causes a vicious cycle. The ice reflects eighty percent of solar heat back into space. The sea absorbs ninety percent of solar heat, warming the water and atmosphere. The melted Arctic ice exposes the sea which absorbs heat, warms the water and causes more ice to melt. Melted Arctic ice increases water and atmospheric temperatures and causes more ice to melt at an increased rate and caused temperatures to further rise.
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Animals of the Arctic are already feeling the effects of the ice melting. Polar bears, seals and other ice dependant species are struggling with the reduction of ice. These species depend on the ice to hunt and breed. If the ice were to totally disappear, ice dependant species would most likely go extinct.
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Temperatures have risen in the Arctic at a fifty percent faster rate than they have in the rest of the world. The increasingly quick temperature rise in the Arctic is a concern for the whole planet. Changes in the Arctic can affect the climate worldwide. The planet is already noticing a rise in temperatures. As the Arctic ice melts, global temperatures will continue to rise. Higher temperatures affect the growth of crops and affect the survival of animal species.
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Methane trapped in the sea floor could be released when Arctic ice melts. Years and years of plant biodegradation that releases methane has been frozen under the sea floor. Scientist's have already discovered methane being released into the Arctic waters as evident by methane bubbles in the Arctic waters. A serious concern, is the release of mass amounts of methane at once into the environment which is a possible event if the Arctic ice melts away. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere approximately twenty-three percent more than carbon does. The event of a mass release of methane into the environment could increase global temperatures even further, making the effects of global warming even worse.