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February 19, 2013

Shrinking Arctic Ice Cover - a Cause for Concern



The ice cover on the Arctic Ocean is shrinking, causing many to sit up and take notice of the impact the reduction seems to be having on greenhouse gases. This rendered a new study conducted by researchers from Lund University in Sweden.

Is there a cause for concern? Apparently yes, as researchers who studied the greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) both in the tundra and in the Arctic Ocean, observed that the rising levels of these gases is creating a vicious cycle of events that will only cause the ice cover to shrink even further.

Let’s see how the ice cover actually affects us.

The thicker the ice cover over the Arctic, the more sunlight it will reflect.  When this reflected sunlight bounces out into space, waters become cooler and formation of ice is faster. Hence, the Arctic ice cover becomes even thicker.

But a shrinking ice cover reduces the amount of sunlight that is reflected and increases the amount of sunlight absorbed.

This warms the waters, which in turn increases the air temperature around the Arctic region. This implies that there will be more vegetation and hence a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide absorption, which does seem like a good thing.

But simultaneously, more carbon dioxide and methane are released from the soil, which adds to the positive effect. This, according to Dr. Frans-Jan Parmentier, will upset the balance of greenhouse gases and damage the climate.

The study also pointed out that there were many uncertainties surrounding the impact melting ice would have on the ocean. Many marine processes were also not completely understood.

"We know very little about how the shrinking sea ice cover disturbs the balance of greenhouse gases in the sea in the long term," added Dr. Parmentier.

Dr. Parmentier has carried out the research study with a number of colleagues, from Lund University, Denmark, Greenland, Canada and the U.S.




Edited by Braden Becker

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