The Arctic is losing it's old, thick ice faster than has been seen in previous years despite cold weather across the Northern Hemisphere. The warm 2007 summer saw the smallest area of ice ever recorded in the Arctic and scientists fear that the trend will continue this year.
Reduced areas of ice have a compounding effect on global warming as white ice reflects warmth back into the atmosphere, whereas, the dark ocean absorbs heat.
March is usually the time that the Arctic ice covers the largest area. In 2008 the area covered will be slightly larger than than it was in 2007, however this masks an underlying trend that shows the amount of older, thicker ice has declined markedly.
Ice more than two years old now only makes up about 30% of the total ice in the Arctic, down from 60% twenty years ago.
It is normally the older ice that survives warmer spells of weather as they tend to be thicker and less saline. Their decline means that the total mass of ice is much more vulnerable to rapid melting in warm periods of weather in the summer.
One scientist from the National Snow and Ice Data Center is reported by the BBC to have said of the Arctic ice cap :
"It's becoming thinner and thinner and much more susceptible to melting during the summer - much more likely to melt away."
"It may look OK on the surface, but it's like looking at a Hollywood movie set - you see the facade of a building and it looks OK, but if you look behind it, there's no building there."
Proof of global warming? I don't think that global warming can be disputed anymore. The question is whether it is part of an ongoing natural cycle over which man has or can have little influence or whether man has been a significant contributing factor to the recent upturn in global temperatures.
Nobody can answer that with absolute certainty and whilst there is doubt most bystanders will choose not to act. The simpler way to look at things is that there is a natural balance with all things. At present we take from the earth more than we give back and common sense shoudld tell us that eventually the balance will have to be redressed.
As an example, using fossil fuels faster than they can be replaced is very much like spending money faster than you earn it, and eventually by choice or through external pressure it has to stop!
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