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December 12, 2006

Global Warming and Positive Feedback Loops

-- by Dave Johnson

It is confirmed: Arctic ice is retreating. Arctic sea ice 'faces rapid melt'

The Arctic may be close to a tipping point that sees all-year-round ice disappear very rapidly in the next few decades, US scientists have warned.

... Last month, the sea that was frozen covered an area that was two million sq km less than the historical average.

"That's an area the size of Alaska," said leading ice expert Mark Serreze.

Ice reflects sinlight, and keeps the water cool. As ice retreats, more heat is absorbed by the planet, and the water is warmer, both leading to even faster melting the following year.

The new study, by a team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Washington, and McGill University, found that the ice system could be being weakened to such a degree by global warming that it soon accelerates its own decline.

"As the ice retreats, the ocean transports more heat to the Arctic and the open water absorbs more sunlight, further accelerating the rate of warming and leading to the loss of more ice," explained Dr Marika Holland.

"This is a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic region."

Eventually, she said, the system would be "kicked over the edge", probably not even by a dramatic event but by one year slightly warmer than normal. Very rapid retreat would then follow.

This article only talks about the effect on Arctic ice - it goes away, along with Arctic wildlife and the sea life it supports. Oh yeah, and coastal land and the cities on it. But this feedback loop also means the rest of the planet warms up quickly. Which means the Antarctic as well...

Posted by Dave Johnson at December 12, 2006 6:31 AM

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Comments

Faces rapid melt like Nazis in a Indiana Jones flic, but mirrors in space can replace the lost arctic ice.

Posted by: J Pierpont Flathead [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 7:02 AM

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