This Blog post is about the melting ice in the Arctic & Antarctic. Something I hold quite close to me – I try and get myself to the local Greenpeace meetings (every first Tuesday at 19:30 at The Harrogate Tap). The reason – to the casual bystander – may be ambivalent and the meetings, in general, may seem archaic. However, I am going to try and present to you something the founder of the Greenpeace movement, Bob Hunter, called a ‘mind-bomb.’ I came across the information on a Facebook post by someone who clearly knew their environmental onions … I hope he does not find offence in me posting about the subject. I am sure he would take great pride in the fact that he has motivated another fighter for the environmental cause.
The image below is a graphical representation of the extent of global sea ice cover, for both polar regions, in millions of square kilometres. The two peaks are due to the ice increasing in the Antarctic during their winter (April to July) and then the Arctic freezes from October. You can see the last really low Arctic ice year was 2012, the dark blue line…. but this year, the Arctic has warmed significantly and isn’t re-freezing in anyway near the way it’s expected. This is a profoundly frightening situation.
I will leave it to the experts to explain how important the Arctic is in governing global weather, ocean currents and our overall climate. But, one of the most interesting things is that whilst there IS ice there, any heat going into the region will just be melting ice, not significantly increasing the temperature. However, once the ice has gone, then the energy entering that system warms the water up. The physics is this: if you have one gramme of ice at 0C, it takes 80 calories of heat to melt it to a gramme of water at 0C. However the next 80 calories of heat energy entering that gramme of water will raise its temperature to 80C.*
So, the ice is keeping the Arctic cool. But when the ice has gone, it will heat up RAPIDLY and this will release many gigatonnes of methane from the permafrost and undersea clathrates (a compound in which molecules of one component are physically trapped within the crystal structure of another). This will heat the area still further, and change everything we know beyond all of our imaginations. We are at the tipping point.
That line on the graph is the scariest thing I’ve seen for a long time. This looks like it is the oft-mentioned abrupt climate change, or ‘tipping point’ beginning to be more obvious. Brace for impact.
*’Borrowed’ from a chap on Facebook who sounds like he knows his onions.