Update (9/15): Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado confirmed today on a conference call with Earthjustice that the Arctic has lost the second highest amount of ice since monitoring began. Listen to a recording of the conference call:
We’ve all heard about the rapid pace of the Arctic ice and glaciers melting. The sea ice at the end of this summer’s period of melting is predicted to match or beat the all-time record low of 2007 and one research group at the University of Bremen in Germany has already announced that the ice this year has already set a record.
Another ice-analysis team, closer to home, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, in Boulder, Colorado has yet to make their annual determination but is expected to within the coming days and offers daily monitoring maps to prove their point.
Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal says the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice is important because “it’s a powerful indicator of the rapid warming occurring throughout the Arctic. This warming is causing an extraordinary increase in the melting of glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet that led scientists earlier this year to project a sea level rise of between 0.9 and 1.6 meters by the end of the century. For low lying communities from the Pacific Islands to Bangladesh to Florida this would be calamitous.”
The five lowest amounts of Arctic sea ice on record since satellite monitoring began in 1979 have all been recorded in the last five years. And it’s not just the amount of ice, but the density and thickness. The thinner the ice, the easier it is to melt.
Recent scientific studies, including an assessment by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization indicate that it’s possible to slow the pace of warming and melting in the Arctic in the near term by reducing emissions of two common air pollutants, soot and smog. These so-called “short-lived” climate warming pollutants, formally known as black carbon and tropospheric ozone remain in the atmosphere only days to a few months, compared to a 100 years or more for CO2. “That means that reducing emissions of these climate pollutants would have fast climate benefits,” added Rosenthal. “This is especially true for the Arctic, where black carbon pollution accelerates the melting of ice and snow.”
Rosenthal was an author on the UNEP/WMO assessment. Earthjustice works with environmental community allies at home and around the world to slow emissions of these short-lived climate pollutants. These groups and Earthjustice will be monitoring the ice watch and we will keep you posted.