Breaking the Ice: What Will Happen Next?

By Rowe, Mark | Geographical, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Breaking the Ice: What Will Happen Next?


Rowe, Mark, Geographical


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The loss of the polar ice caps is one of the primary environmental concerns of our time--but what are the potential consequences of this phenomenon? Mark Rowe asks scientists what the melting of these monumental sheets of ice will mean for the world's climate, sea levels and ocean circulation, as well as the wildlife and indigenous peoples of the polar regions

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

CLIMATE

More powerful storms in the Atlantic; drier, hotter seasons in Australia; wetter weather in southern Africa--there are few weather patterns that will remain unaltered by the melting of the ice caps.

Polar changes are critical because of various feedbacks involving the ocean. The Southern Ocean is a significant sink for both heat and carbon dioxide, acting as a buffer against human-induced climate change, according to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), while the sea ice that forms around the Arctic each winter controls the exchange of energy between the sun and the Earth, and its partition between atmosphere and ocean.

The freshwater transport from the Arctic to lower latitudes is one of the main ways in which the Arctic interacts with the global climate system, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned that melting ice caps and reduced sea-ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic could change the characteristics of the atmospheric circulation.

In the North Atlantic, subtle changes in ocean conditions and in the fluxes of heat and momentum between the atmosphere and the ocean have been shown to play a significant role in the eventual strength and trajectories of major storms. Atlantic storm tracks go up into the Greenland Sea and are likely to be influenced by the lack of Arctic sea ice.

'Changing sea ice and snow cover, and even changing ice sheets, have certain effects on the atmospheric circulation,' says Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, senior scientific officer of the World Climate Research Programme. 'Ocean circulation will also change, and there will be long-lasting anomalies. Some models show that if you have melting of the ice sheets, then this leads to a bigger weakening of the North Atlantic circulation. Atmospheric circulation anomalies may result in anomalies of precipitation over large areas, and in turn lead to significant hydrological changes.'

Ryabinin cites the experience of central Russia, where a rise in precipitation between 1977 and 1995--attributed to weather from the Arctic--led to more water accumulating in the River Volga basin, increasing the level of the Caspian Sea by 2.S metres. 'Runoff from the great Russian rivers, such as the Yenisei, the Lena and the Ob, also affects the balance between fresh water and salt water in the Arctic Ocean,' he says. 'Changing patterns of atmospheric circulation, drift of sea ice, freshwater runoff and ice melt from Greenland all create complicated signals in the ocean circulation.'

A major concern for Ryabinin is that, in straining to be fact-based, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may have underplayed some of the unfolding effects. 'I'm worried about the uncertainties associated with the climate system's sensitivity to change,' he says. 'The IPCC is non-alarmist. But some IPCC projections don't reflect the more dramatic changes that we see occurring now, such as sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. The actual observed pace of sea-level rise is in the highest part of the range of projections by IPCC.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

'There are positive feedbacks in the climate system and if things start to happen, then they may result in faster changes than predicted,' he continues. 'I think we will have some surprises in what the sheets and cryosphere in general will do, and melting may happen more easily than anticipated.'

In the Antarctic, scientists have recorded increasingly strong winds. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Breaking the Ice: What Will Happen Next?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.