Within two years, the Arctic basin could be free of ice in the warmer months of the year. Other than the demise of the polar bear’s hunting grounds, (which in itself is devastating) what could be the problem to humans? After all, shipping lanes will be open for rapid transit to the western US and Siberia.
First, the frozen Arctic acts as a climate stabilizer. Now, with the huge body of water absorbing the sun’s heat, the Arctic is beginning to act as a furnace instead of an air conditioner. Studies show that temperatures in the Arctic have risen dramatically.
Second, the land of the North, such as Greenland, which had in decades past been covered with ice, is losing its ice cover. Seventy-two square miles of water, previously a part of the Greenland Ice Sheet, is now contributing to the rising oceans.
With new studies, scientists are revising the time of sea-rise devastations to coastal communities. Already, islands in the Pacific are disappearing under the ocean. For many islanders, their fresh water supply is being contaminated by salt water. As the water rises, the bones of their ancestors are disappearing into the deep. Entire communities with unique cultures are being displaced.
Third, in the Arctic seabed methane has been frozen in a crystalline structure for millennia. As the Arctic water warms, this is now being released in bubbling plumes into the atmosphere. Methane has a 20% higher greenhouse gas trapping capacity than CO2. Add that to the billions of tons of CO2 being released into the air daily by humans and their machines. Although methane dissipates quicker than carbon dioxide (which can hang around for centuries) its release will continue incrementally.
The dark surface of the land exposed in Greenland and other normally frozen terrestrial lands such as Siberia and Canada absorb even more heat, again creating rising world-wide temperatures due to methane gas release.
Fourth, as if melting ice and methane release isn’t enough, there is the fact that more exposed water means more water vapor in the air. Water vapor traps heat.
Air pollution also traps the heat in the lower atmosphere creating ozone, a deadly form of oxygen. So, the more air pollution and humidity we have the hotter will be local and regional temperatures exacerbated by warmer air flowing down from the Arctic. Speaking globally, 2017 was the second warmest year on record (NASA) and 2016 ranked as the warmest year since records have been kept.
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This is not a doomsday call but rather a little reminder that what we do to the planet we do to ourselves. We cannot call our handy repairman to fix the BIG air conditioner. It is really up to each individual to do what they can to lessen the detrimental impacts happening on our planet.
More floods, drought and tornados are extreme weather events that are occurring world wide. Insurance premiums will continue to spike upwards. Our strained budgets and health problems may be society’s indicators of Earth’s broken air conditioner. As Ry Cooder sang, “How can a poor man stand such times and live?”
St. Thomas Aquinas (1260-1274) “Any error about creation also leads to an error about God.”
©Ann Rains--May, 2018