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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

North arctic glaciers melting faster than predicted, warming ocean water temperatures

Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean...Image via Wikipedia
Arctic Ocean sheet ice is melting faster
than previously predicted, causing increased
sea levels, increasing global warming effects.
Michigan’s weather has been unusually cold for most of the entire month of April and starting into May. Southern states Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee on April 27th, experienced a series of devastating tornadoes that took the lives of up to 349 residents and counting. 

Storms in the South have been described as the worst in terms of lives lost and properly damage, in a century. Lines of storms and/or weather fronts have lead from a far as Texas to the Midwest region, in the past couple of months, taking days if the entire week, to make their impact.

Top off the Japan Earthquake measuring 8.9 in scale with a 23 foot Tsunami that swept on the island nation shores in March 2011, and a series of strangle weather related events have occurred in the past couple of months. Changes in the weather patterns are leaving millions wondering if the global warming effect will have violent or un-seasonality normal weather, as a new-normal for the years to come. 

A upcoming report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, could hold the answer. The AMAP report stated to be released during the week noted that Arctic ice in the North Pole is melting faster than expected and could raise the average global sea level by as much as five feet this century, an authoritative new report suggests.

The study by AMAP is one of the most comprehensive updates on climate change in the Arctic, and builds on a similar assessment in 2005.

The full report will be delivered to foreign ministers of the eight Arctic nations next week. The report is expected to say that Arctic temperatures in the past six years were the highest since measurements began in 1880, and that feedback mechanisms believed to accelerate warming in the climate system have now started kicking in.

One mechanism involves the ocean absorbing more heat when it’s not covered by ice, which reflects the sun’s energy. 
That effect has been anticipated by scientists “but clear evidence for it has only been observed in the Arctic in the past five years,” AMAP said.
The report also shatters some of the forecasts made in 2007 by the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change. Sea ice cover on the Arctic Ocean, for example, is shrinking faster than projected by the U.N. panel, with summer ice coverage has been at or near record lows every year since 2001, AMAP said, predicting that the Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice free in summer within 30-40 years.

Its assessment also said the U.N. panel was too conservative in estimating how much sea levels will rise — one of the most closely watched aspects of global warming because of the potentially catastrophic impact on coastal cities and island nations.
 “The observed changes in sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, in the mass of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic ice caps and glaciers over the past 10 years are dramatic and represent an obvious departure from the long-term patterns,” AMAP said in the executive summary.
The organization’s main function is to advise the nations surrounding the Arctic — the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland — on threats to the Arctic environment.

The findings of its report — Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic — will be discussed by some of the scientists who helped compile it at a conference starting Wednesday, May 4th in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

The AMAP report said melting glaciers and ice sheets worldwide have become the biggest contributor to sea level rise. Greenland’s ice sheet alone accounted for more than 40 percent of the 0.12 inches (3.1 millimeters) of sea-level rise observed annually between 2003 and 2008, AMAP said.

It said the yearly mass loss from Greenland’s ice sheet, which covers an area the size of Mexico, increased from 50 gigatons in 1995-2000 to more than 200 gigatons in 2004-2008.

Scientists are still debating how much of the changes observed in the Arctic are due to natural variances and how much to warming caused by the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

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