Climate change brought on by global warming is causing the polar ice caps to melt. At a pace of about 13% every decade, the Arctic sea ice is disappearing, and during the past 30 years, the oldest and thickest Arctic ice has shrunk by an astounding 95%.
By 2040, there may not be any ice in the Arctic if emissions rise uncontrolled. However, what occurs in the Arctic does not remain there. The repercussions of sea ice loss are felt all across the world.
In 2015, Florida State University meteorologist TN Krishnamurti argued in a research that the heat released into the atmosphere during intense rainfall events in northwest India ultimately travels to the Canadian Arctic region, resulting in a large loss of Arctic sea ice.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center of the United States, over the past three decades, the Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world. This phenomena is known as Arctic Amplification.
Climate Change is a major Cause
Many people believe that the primary effect of global warming is an increase in average temperatures. The rise in temperature is merely the beginning of the story. A little variation in one part of the Earth's ecosystem can have a ripple effect throughout the entire planet's system.
Since the early 1900s, numerous glaciers around the world have been melting at an accelerated rate. This phenomenon has its origins in human activity. Specifically, since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have raised temperatures, even higher in the poles, and as a result, glaciers are rapidly melting, calving off into the sea and retreating on land.
The Arctic and Antarctic are the refrigerator of the globe. As a result of being covered in snow and ice, which reflect heat back into space, they balance out regions of the planet that absorb heat. Less ice implies less reflected heat, resulting in more extreme global heatwaves. Warmer air can disrupt the polar jet stream, a high-pressure wind that circles the Arctic region, and cause it to sink south, bringing very cold temperatures with it.
Since 1900, the global average sea level has increased approximately 7–8 inches and is continuing to climb. Rising sea levels harm coastal towns and tiny island nations by exacerbating coastal floods and storm surge, hence enhancing the severity of hazardous weather occurrences. Greenland ice sheet melting is a significant predictor of future sea level rise; if it completely melts, global sea levels might climb 20 feet.
Polar vortices, increasing heat waves, and climatic unpredictability due to melting ice are already inflicting considerable damage to crops upon which global food systems rely. This volatility will continue to translate into increased prices for all and escalating crises for the most vulnerable in the world.
As Arctic ice melts, new shipping routes become available. These paths will be enticing time-savers, but they are extremely hazardous. Imagine more shipwrecks or oil spills like the Exxon-Valdez in areas that are inaccessible to rescue or clean-up crews.
When there is less sea ice, creatures whose life depends on it must adapt or perish. Loss of ice and permafrost melting spells disaster for polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, snowy owls, and many other species. In addition to humans, other animals that depend on them are also affected by their decline. As wildlife encroach on Arctic towns in search of refuge as their sea ice habitat vanishes, there is a rise in human-animal interactions, and often conflict.
Arctic ice and permafrost (permanently frozen ground) hold significant quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. This methane is produced upon thawing, hence accelerating global warming. This in turn leads more ice and permafrost to thaw or melt, resulting in the release of more methane and further melting. As ice loss accelerates and permafrost melts more rapidly, the most worst climate change projections will become a reality.
While it is yet unknown whether this rapid sea ice reduction can impact extreme weather events in the tropics or monsoon rainfall events in India, scientists from NCPOR have suggested that it may be producing a high-pressure area in Northwest Europe. Extreme rainfall occurrences during the late monsoon can be triggered by the reduction of sea ice, according to the findings of the researchers.
Changes in upper level air circulation due to the loss of Arctic sea ice and very warm sea surface temperatures over the Arabian Sea could contribute to an increase in excessive monsoon rainfall in central India, particularly in September, according to the authors.
A major ocean current in the Arctic is faster and more turbulent as a result of rapid sea ice melt, a new study from NASA shows. The current is part of a delicate Arctic ecosystem that is now overwhelmed by fresh water due to climate change caused by humans.
Using satellite data collected over a period of 12 years, scientists have determined that the Beaufort Gyre has been precariously balancing an unprecedented influx of cold, fresh water.
The gyre then gradually releases this freshwater into the Atlantic Ocean over decades, allowing the Atlantic Ocean currents to transport it away in modest quantities. Since the 1990s, however, the gyre has gathered a tremendous amount of fresh water. The source of this increase in freshwater content, according to a new study published in Nature Communications, is the melting of summer and autumn sea ice. A change that might alter the currents in the Atlantic Ocean and temper the climate of Western Europe, which will have direct repercussion across globe.
The tundra and permafrost beneath it may appear distant, yet regardless of where we live, our daily decisions contribute to climate change.
By lowering our carbon footprint, investing in energy-efficient products, and supporting climate-friendly businesses, legislation, and policies, we can aid in the conservation of the world's permafrost and prevent a vicious circle of global warming.
Climate change and global warming must be at the top of every nation's foreign policy agenda. We must make this crucial change, and the sooner we do so, the more benefit we will derive from our own climate initiatives.