- April 27, 2020
Will the Arctic Ocean melt completely?
Willthe Arctic Ocean melt completely?
Globalwarming is a very critical subject today. In fact, Overland and Wangnote that it has become a key agenda in almost all internationalconferences and gatherings (Overland & Wang 2098). This is mainlybecause the reality of the rapidly changing climate is dawning on usas exhibited in the way it is threatening our sustainability. Aresearch by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)documents that the average temperature of the earth has risen byclose to a half a degree over the past 100 years. This figure mightnot seem big enough but it has had a noteworthy impact as far asclimate change is concerned. According to Overland for instance, oneof the most significant impacts has been the melting of icebergs atthe Arctic and Antarctic (Overland 11). With continued trends, it isfeared that the shrinking Arctic ice may lead to ice-free summers orthe disappearance of the polar ice caps altogether. It is of immensesignificance to explore the abovementioned concerns with theobjective of determining whether indeed the Arctic Ocean will one daymelt completely.
Thestate of affair
Theissue of global warming has become more apparent than ever before.According to Zachary and Kevin, this is because much of it is causedby human activities (Zachary & Kevin 53). These activities thatinclude overgrazing, excessive emission of carbon gases, bush fires,nuclear reactions and industrial emissions directly lead to increasedconcentration of carbon dioxide (CO2)gas in the atmosphere. This in turn destroys the ozone layer leadingto increased penetration of heat from the sun hence the increasedtemperatures on the earth’s surface (global warming). As noted bythe EPA, these temperatures are having a significant impact on nearlyevery climatic parameter. On land for instance, cases of drought andother natural calamities triggered by high temperatures are becomingmore apparent.
Inthe seas, it has been reported that the sea level has risen bybetween 6 and 8 inches over the past 100 years. This is because theincreasing heat is causing the icebergs to melt and break off fromlandmasses into the oceans. The same effect is felt at the Arctic andAntarctic. These regions are covered in complete ice caps and seaswith average temperatures going as low as -370C (Overland & Wang 2103). However, with continued global heating,huge chunks of glaciers and icebergs are breaking off hence greatlyreducing the areas covered in complete ice. With global warming onthe rise, it can only be imagined that one day this sea ice is goingto disappear.
CurrentFigures and Trends
Currentfigures and statistics are all pointing towards a possibility of anice-free Arctic. According to a research by National Aeronautics andSpace Administration (NASA), the rate at which this region is losingits ice cover is worrying. By 2010 for instance, it was reported thatclose to 78,000 KM2(30,000miles2)of sea ice were melting away each year. This is a region equivalentto the state of Maine. In the year 2012, this shrinking and thinningof the Arctic Ocean fell to its all-time lowest level sincescientists started keeping track of changes at the North Pole.According to Overland, measurements used today only take intoconsideration the total areas that have not less than 15% of icecover (Overland 11).
Notso long ago (in the year 2010), Arctic Ocean’s blanket of sea icewas estimated to be at around 5.83 million square kilometers which isan equivalent of 2.25 million square miles (Zachary & Kevin 51).By the summer of 2012, global warming had its biggest toll on thearea shrinking this coverage to just 3.41 million KM2.As noted above, this was the lowest that this level has ever gone,breaking the previous record of 4.17 million KM2(1.61million miles2)that was put in place in 2007 (Zachary & Kevin 51).
Thetrend highlighted above has been going on for some time nowtriggering the question of whether indeed the Arctic sea ice can meltcompletely. Apparently, besides the increasing temperatures that haveliterally double over the past few decades, there are other keyfactors contributing to the above figures. According to Overland andWang for instance, part of the melting is self-induced meaning thatthe actual thawing of the once-frozen ground in the Arctic istriggering the melting of more ice through increased heating(Overland & Wang 2115). Apparently, this region covered in iceplays a significant role in reflecting sunlight. Overland and Wangnote that frozen water has high albedo (the measure of how well theearth’s surface reflects sunlight) meaning it reflects much of thesunlight (85%) hitting it (Overland & Wang 2104). This is unlikethe melted sea water which is generally darker and absorbs much ofthe sunlight. Since the less sunlight is reflected the more heat theplanet absorbs, the ongoing shrinking of the ice cap implies that themelting is bound to go on.
ThePossibility of an Ice-Free Arctic
Thequestion of whether we are ever going to have an ice-free Arctic hasbecome more apparent than ever before. This is because all currenttrends point at a continued decrease in ice cover in the region dueto continued increase in global temperatures. The Arctic andAntarctic are extremely sensitive to climate changes. In fact,scientists closely monitor these Polar Regions because they givecritical information regarding trends in global warming and theireffects. Ideally, they will heat up faster than any other region onthe planet and relatively cool down at the same rate. According toOverland, the total size of sea ice at the Arctic in 1980s wasequivalent to the size of the lower 48 US states (Overland 12).However, with the current melting trends, this size has reduced toalmost that of the state of Maine, prompting a number of scientiststo project a completely ice-free summer in the future.
Hollandand Bitz define an ice-free Arctic as a period where the North Poleregion is covered by less than 1 million square kilometers of sea icefor a period of at least five consecutive years (Holland & Bitz39). Ideally, it is extremely difficult to completely melt all iceespecially in places such as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. In theSouth Pole (Antarctic) for example, this ice-free cap is nearlyimpossible because the region generally reacts differently amid thecurrent heat changes. As demonstrated by NASA, more ice is buildingup in the south, a paradox that is equally puzzling (Overland 12).The explanation given for this scenario is that unlike in the ArcticPole, there is a strong Southern Ocean Circumpolar Current thatshields the Antarctic continent from the warmer ocean water flowingaround. This current together with the icy winds play a significantrole in keeping the temperatures around the Antarctica extremely lowhence contributing towards the continuous buildup of huge chunks ofglaciers and icebergs.
Regardingthe Arctic, there have been a number of theories and scientificprojections all highlighting the possibility of it becoming ice-free.According to Holland and Bitz, all these projections agree to thefact that this region is bound to lose all its ice cover given thecurrent trends in global warming (Holland & Bitz 40). However, itis not certain when this is going to happen. A 2009 research byGeophysicalResearch Institutepredicts that the Arctic will achieve the ‘near ice-free’ statusby the year 2040 (Zachary & Kevin 49). This research bases itsargument not only on the global temperatures but also on theincreasing heat caused by the thawing of the once-frozen ground inthe region. Another research by GeophysicalResearch Letterspredicts that the region will lose all its ice as early as 2037 or atleast start having ice-free summers within the same year (Holland &Bitz 45). The projections of their research is also informed by theevidence of continues depletion of the ozone layer by emission gaseswhich is leading to a further increase in global temperatures.
Thesubject of whether the Arctic Ocean is going to melt completely isone that has caught the attention of a lot of scientists. Apparently,a lot of factors point towards the possibility of ice-free summers inthis region. However, there is very little evidence of ascertainingwhen this is actually going happen. Nonetheless, given the currenttrends in climate change that have been persistent in the pastdecades, it has become more apparent than never before that thiscomplete melting of Arctic sea ice is actually a reality.
Holland,Mann and Bitz, Tremblay. “Future abrupt reductions in the summerArctic sea ice.” GeophysicalResearch Letters33.23 (2012): 37-49. Print.
Overland,James. “Atmospheric science: Long-range linkage.” NatureClimate Change4.1 (2013): 11–12. Print.
Overland,James and Wang, Mick. “When will the summer Arctic be nearly seaice free?” GeophysicalResearch Letters40 .10 (2013): 2097-2117. Print.
Zachary,Brown and Kevin, Arrigo. “Sea ice impacts on spring bloom dynamicsand net primary production in the Eastern Bering Sea.” Journalof Geophysical Research: Oceans 118.1(2013): 43–62. Print.