Current science on Arctic warming and its global effects

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Over the past few decades,
the Arctic has warmed at about twice the rate
of the rest of the globe. This has resulted in destabilisation of important Arctic systems, including sea ice, the Greenland Ice Sheet, mountain glaciers
and aspects of the Arctic carbon cycle. A peer-reviewed report dealing with the
subject was produced by WWF and brings together top climate scientists who
assessed the current science on Arctic warming and its global effects. Read on to find out more.

The report Arctic Climate Feedbacks:
Global Implications
was presented on 2 September 2009 at the World
Meteorological Organization’s ‘World Climate Conference 3' in Geneva. It states that continued Arctic
warming could lead to global weather changes, flooding, which could affect one
quarter of the world’s people, and sudden increases in greenhouse gases
emissions from massive Arctic carbon pools.

What potential regional
impacts does the report predict?

The report emphasises that
changes in the Arctic are likely to affect everyone wherever we live,
but it does not often single out specific impacts on specific countries, as
that sort of fine-tuning of impacts requires further scientific investigation.
There are some country or regional-specific impacts in the report, as outlined
below:

(NB – these should all be
phrased as potential impacts)

Changes in air and water
currents could lead to wetter than normal conditions over central and southern
Europe and the Mediterranean, and drier than normal weather conditions over
Northern Europe, warmer than normal in Canada
and Northeastern US, potentially drier
American West.

  • Europe and North America could
    experience unusually cold winters, whereas Greenland
    may experience unusually warmer winters.

  • Changes
    in water temperatures and currents would have an impact on fisheries. For
    example, the number of cod would increase in the Labrador
    Sea and diminish on the northern European side.

  • Ocean
    acidification, as a result of the ocean taking up additional carbon dioxide
    from the atmosphere, is expected to hit the Arctic first because the Arctic Ocean already has a relatively low pH. This would
    have potentially negative implications for shelled organisms that live on and
    near the sea floor as well as for those animals that feed on the sea floor
    ecosystem.

  • Sea-level
    rise is a major concern for populations living in low-lying coastal regions
    (about 25% of humans), because it will give rise to inundation (both temporary
    and permanent flooding), wetland loss, shoreline erosion, salt water intrusion
    into surface water bodies and aquifers, and it will raise water tables. In many
    coastal regions of the world sea level is rising and the ground is sinking.
    This amplifies the effect of sea-level rise in these locations, so that for
    example, a half-metre rise in global sea-level and a half-metre of local land
    subsidence combines to produce 1 metre of relative sea-level rise.

  •  Accelerated
    ground sinking has been reported in many regions, either because of local
    groundwater withdrawal (e.g. Tokyo subsided by 5 metres, Shangai by 3 metres,
    and Bangkok by 2 metres during the last decades) or oil and gas extraction
    (e.g. along the Gulf of Mexico Coast in the United States where the ground
    subsides at a rate of 5 to 10 mm per year). 

You Tube
video interview link  

The CABI internet resource Environment Impact provides many reports, articles and reviews on effects of global warming on the climate and on biological systems.

Photo:
Google Images

 

One thought on “Current science on Arctic warming and its global effects

  1. Shippers December 21, 2009 / 12:16 am

    Ocean acidification is one of the most lethal yet least studied effects of global warming! This might be the silent killer of whales off Indian coasts recently.

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