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Melting Arctic Ice Caps May Speed Up Global Warming

The sun sets over the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Earth's Magnetic North Pol...

Photo by David Goldman AP

Above: The sun sets over the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Earth's Magnetic North Pole has been moving away from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia at a rate of 55 km per year.

A recently published scientific paper suggests the shrinking ice pack in the arctic ocean may hasten the planet’s march toward global warming.

The north pole’s ice cap is getting smaller and that is reducing the amount of heat being reflected back into space. Open ocean in the arctic actually absorbs heat, accelerating the planet’s warming.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Ian Eisenman said losing the reflective properties of the ice would be the equivalent of adding 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson

The entire industrial revolution is responsible for putting 2.4 trillion tons of CO2 into the air.

“Global warming could happen just as fast as we think but it could also quite a bit faster. And the way it would happen faster is if we lose the sea ice faster than our projections,” Eisenman said.

A paper co-authored and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that melting ice caps could push the planet’s average temperature up two degrees more than two decades faster than previously thought.

“Two degrees is a lot more uncertainty. Some projections have said it could be as soon as around 2040,” Eisenman said. “A lot of other projections say it could be quite a bit farther off. And it could be never. And a lot of this uncertainty has to do with what we’ll do as a society in terms of how much carbon we emit to the atmosphere.”

People can still have an impact on the outcome by reducing the amount of carbon put into the air, according to Eisenman.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

San Diego researchers say that global warming could happen a lot faster because of melting ice caps. Plus, scientists say Californians are going to experience hotter temperatures in the coming decades. Also on today’s podcast, a recent spike in Big Sur tourism has caught local officials unprepared and hear how San Diego’s reputation as a place to get well may ... Read more →

Aired: July 29, 2019 | Transcript

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