As bad news came from Antarctica I thought it would be interesting to check out how the poles are warming. I wrote in December that Antarctica keeps on melting and it seems this phenomenon is aggravating.
As the BBC noted “Scientists say the collapse could mean the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on the brink of breaking away, and provides further evidence of rapid change in the region.”
The Arctic also warms significantly as recent studies carried out during the International Polar Year have shown. Both regions are warming more than any other.
As Ecoworldy noted:
This month, as the results of data analyses come in, climate scientists are getting a more detailed, far clearer picture of the ‘State of the Poles’ and the effects of warming and climate change in these most extreme regions of our planet. Although this project is actually the culmination of two years work, some 160 separate studies and over a billion dollars it has been officially deemed the ‘International Polar Year’ (IPY).
One of the most important findings of this project is a confirmation of what many climate scientists have suspected for a couple of years now–that the impact of climate change on our environment is happening at a much faster rate than previous computer models predicted. This is true even for the four major reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the last of which was released in 2007).
Other important findings: the ice masses that cover Antarctica and Greenland are indeed diminishing and contributing to a rise in sea levels. As the reader may know, this question of total (net) loss of ice mass–especially with regards to Greenland–has been a point of contention both within the science community, and also with opponents of anthropogenic climate change.
There was some earlier data suggesting that, while the rate of melting at the outer “fingers” of Greenland’s glaciers and their movement towards the sea was increasing, the central ice mass was also increasing (due to a short term increase in snow accumulation, etc.).
But based on the results of these more comprehensive and more accurate studies the contention–or confusion–is apparently over and resolved, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science, sponsors of IPY. Officials at these two organizations believe that they now have accumulated enough concrete scientific evidence on which to base their climate policy recommendations.
Another troubling confirmation: Arctic permafrost is thawing, most likely due to a rise (over the past 35 years) in the average Arctic temperature of 1° to 2 ° Celsius (one degree of Celsius or centigrade is equal to 1.8 degrees of Fahrenheit). This is a sufficient rise to allow thawing of permafrost.
The concern here is that the millions of tons of organic matter that currently is contained by the permafrost “seal”, will begin decomposing–releasing large quantities of both CO2 and Methane gas, two major green house gases (note: methane gas, CH4, also destroys ozone, O3). This, it is predicted, will further tip the balance towards a “runaway greenhouse effect”.
To learn out more, please check out this page from the Scientific American: The future of the poles.