Arctic Tipping Point? It Won’t Be Televised
Every year, Arctic sea ice melts during summer months and then refreezes during the colder winter months. On September 16th of this year, sea ice extent fell to 3.41 million square kilometers ( 1.32 square miles), the lowest summer minimum on satellite record.
As temperatures increase, and sea ice melts, this accelerates the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet results in sea level rise.
“We are now in uncharted territory,” said National Snow and Ice Data Center Director Mark Serreze. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”
As global warming impacts the Arctic region, more ice melts. The albedo of the Arctic is reduced, meaning less solar energy is reflected and more is absorbed. More energy absorbed means greater warming, causing more ice melt. This compounding process is called a positive feedback. In the Arctic, we call this process the ice-albedo feedback. And many are concerned that this rapid melt of the Arctic may translate into a tipping point for our global climate.
Co-founder of the Weather Underground, Dr. Jeff Masters blogged, “To me, seeing the record Arctic sea ice loss of 2012 is like discovering a growing fire burning in Earth’s attic. It is an emergency that requires immediate urgent attention. If you remove an area of sea ice 43% the size of the Contiguous U.S. from the ocean, it is guaranteed to have a significant impact on weather and climate. The extra heat and moisture added to the atmosphere as a result of all that open water over the pole may already be altering jet stream patterns in fall and winter, bringing an increase in extreme weather events…. The house all of humanity lives on is on fire. The fire is certain to spread, since we’ve ignored it for too long. It is capable of becoming a raging fire that will burn down our house, crippling civilization, unless we take swift and urgent action to combat it.“
But in a study published by Media Matters late last week, TV news covered Paul Ryan’s workout over three times more than Arctic sea loss. And the three major cable outlets covered Ryan’s workouts over six times more than Arctic sea loss; mentioning it only eight times in four months. According to Media Matters, three of these mentions were in the context of how ice impacts drilling expeditions in the Arctic, and the one mention on Fox News dismissed the problem entirely. Meanwhile, the cable outlets have discussed Ryan’s workouts 53 times.