Going, Going, and Soon to Be Gone?

By Hazem Sharaf

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 Global warming is not a myth anymore. In August of this year, it was recorded that the North Pole ice cap has shrunk to a record low, beating previous records of summer 2005 by 50%. The ice is still shrinking at this moment though with a declined rate as it normally starts freezing up again by mid September. Previous estimates predicted an iceless summer for the north Arctic Ocean by 2080. But after this year’s accelerated record melting, models were revisited, and conservative estimates now predict an iceless summer as early as within 20 years from now

The current thawing has one immediate effect and two mid- to long-term disastrous effects.  The first immediate effect is a geopolitical one. Russia is calling for an extension of its maritime claim, especially the ridge of dsadsd, which climaxed by the planting of the Russian flag under the North Pole using a submarine. Canada is also concerned about its drilling rights for oil and gas. The second immediate effect is the opening up of the Northwest Passage for the first time in recent history. This Northwest Passage, although only partly navigable due to floating ice chunks, goes through Canadian islands and Greenland. It would open new shipping trade routes vital for the oil tankers. Already villages in North Greenland have started to suffer the effects of that. During previous summers, the frozen oceans usually stayed intact with land, allowing the famous Eskimos to hunt in the ice. Now, the frozen sea started retreating back, altering their long-lived habits and traditions. Polar bears are one of the worst affected animals nowadays. They rely heavily on the sea ice, and their populations are falling at a rate which theoretically would lead them to extinction within 100 years. Although they are only listed as vulnerable species, after this year’s accelerated melting, they will probably be classified as officially endangered species. 

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However, the melting of the ice caps doesn’t have a direct impact on rising sea levels. This ice is already present and it’s just melted. The effects would be mid- to long-term on Greenland. The ice used to reflect 90% of the incoming sun rays. The absence of that ice and exposing of dark blue sea would allow for the energy to be stored as latent heat in the sea. This would lead to the warming of Greenland and melting of its ice into the sea. A second mid- to long-term effect would be the altering of the wind and precipitation patterns of the northern hemisphere. Climate models expect longer growing seasons and more precipitation at northern latitudes providing a chance for sustainable agriculture, but after the surprisingly increased melting levels, these models would be revisited. What about the effects on winter for the rest of the globe? Cold air shots that cause winter storms and freezing snaps that form over freezing surfaces, now that they would form over cold water rather than ice, what effects would this have on winter? What about the climate in the southern latitudes? Would ecosystems have enough time to cope? Would we, human beings, be able to stop what is caused by the ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases? All are being addressed by the top countries in conferences about global climate change in the United Nations. Let’s hope and pray that we are not starting to act very late, and that we really are starting to act. 

Sources

<http://nsidc.org/news/press/2007_seaiceminimum/20070810_index.html#20September&gt;.

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7005483.stm&gt;.

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2642773.stm&gt;.

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6995999.stm&gt;.

<http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/archive.html?tstamp=200708&gt;.

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