New report shows Arctic ice melting faster
Arctic ice is now melting so fast that sea levels around the planet can be expected to rise by more than 5 feet by the end of this century. That would be enough to put most coastal cities under water worldwide.
That’s the conclusion of a study by the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (IAMAP).
Previous estimates had sea levels rising by a maximum of 2 feet. But those earlier figures deliberately did not take into account a key factor that scientists were still uncertain about: feedback.
Feedback describes what happens when the melting of the ice means that less sunlight is being reflected back into the sky. Ice, being white, reflects sunlight, but when it turns to water, which is dark, the water absorbs the sunlight, becomes even warmer, melting nearby ice faster, which continues in a feedback loop until all the ice is gone.
(A similar process is also happening on marshy land in sub-Arctic regions where white permafrost is melting, leaving dark marshes that are loaded with decomposing vegetation which, with no ice to cover it, releases massive amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere, creating yet warmer temperatures, and causing more permafrost to melt.)
Scientists have been seeing the start of feedback created by melting sea ice for several years, but they left it out of previous official reports because they couldn’t calculate what was happening accurately enough to make firm predictions.
The results of the new study by IAMAP will be presented to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and to foreign ministers from Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia at an Arctic Council meeting in Greenland next week. The IAMAP represents all eight of these Arctic Rim countries.
Mercury levels rising, too
A second report that will be presented at the meeting in Greenland shows that mercury levels are rising to dangerous levels in the Arctic, and could grow by another 25 percent by 2020.
An excerpt from the new study says that “it is of particular concern that mercury levels are continuing to rise in some Arctic species in large areas of the Arctic, despite emissions reductions in nearby regions like Europe, North America and Russia.
The reason for this is that mercury, which has also been stored in the permafrost for thousands of years, is now being released into the atmosphere and the ocean as the frost melts.
What do you say? How might rising sea levels affect you in the coming years? Do you live in a coastal city? Have you considered that you may need to move? How much do you think about this? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.
What you can do: Most of us can’t do much to affect policy in our own country, let alone others. But we can all let our representatives in Congress know that this issue is important to us – and that it will be critical to our children.