Modernization Hub

Modernization and Improvement
Why the Arctic is climate change’s canary in the coal mine – William Chapman

Why the Arctic is climate change’s canary in the coal mine – William Chapman


The area surrounding the North Pole may seem like a frozen and desolate
environment where nothing ever changes. But it is actually a complex
and finely balanced natural system, and its extreme location
makes it vulnerable to feedback processes that can magnify even tiny changes
in the atmosphere. In fact, scientists often describe
the Arctic as the canary in the coal mine when it comes to predicting the impact
of climate change. One major type of climate feedback
involves reflectivity. White surfaces, like snow and ice, are very effective at reflecting
the sun’s energy back into space, while darker land and water surfaces
absorb much more incoming sunlight. When the Arctic warms just a little,
some of the snow and ice melts, exposing the ground and ocean underneath. The increased heat absorbed by
these surfaces causes even more melting, and so on. And although the current situation
in the Arctic follows the warming pattern, the opposite is also possible. A small drop in temperatures
would cause more freezing, increasing the amount
of reflective snow and ice. This would result in less sunlight
being absorbed, and lead to a cycle of cooling,
as in previous ice ages. Arctic sea ice is also responsible
for another feedback mechanism through insulation. By forming a layer on the ocean’s surface, the ice acts as a buffer between
the frigid arctic air and the relatively
warmer water underneath. But when it thins, breaks,
or melts in any spot, heat escapes from the ocean, warming the atmosphere
and causing more ice to melt in turn. Both of these are examples
of positive feedback loops, not because they do something good, but because the initial change
is amplified in the same direction. A negative feedback loop,
on the other hand, is when the initial change
leads to effects that work in the opposite direction. Melting ice also causes
a type of negative feedback by releasing moisture into the atmosphere. This increases the amount and thickness
of clouds present, which can cool the atmosphere
by blocking more sunlight. But this negative feedback loop
is short-lived, due to the brief Arctic summers. For the rest of the year,
when sunlight is scarce, the increased moisture and clouds actually warm the surface
by trapping the Earth’s heat, turning the feedback loop positive
for all but a couple of months. While negative feedback loops
encourage stability by pushing a system towards equilibrium, positive feedback loops destabilize it
by enabling larger and larger deviations. And the recently increased impact
of positive feedbacks may have consequences
far beyond the Arctic. On a warming planet, these feedbacks ensure that the North Pole
warms at a faster rate than the equator. The reduced temperature differences
between the two regions may lead to slower jet stream winds and less linear atmospheric circulation
in the middle latitudes, where most of the world’s
population lives. Many scientists are concerned
that shifts in weather patterns will last longer and be more extreme, with short term fluctuations becoming
persistent cold snaps, heat waves, droughts and floods. So the Arctic sensitivity doesn’t just
serve as an early warning alarm for climate change
for the rest of the planet. Its feedback loops can affect us
in much more direct and immediate ways. As climate scientists often warn, what happens in the Arctic
doesn’t always stay in the Arctic.

40 comments on “Why the Arctic is climate change’s canary in the coal mine – William Chapman

  1. I wonder how many people are going to try to bring up the debunked "Antarctica's ice is expanding" argument because they don't understand the difference between sea ice and land ice. 

  2. just a matter of time when a wild climate change denier appears and sprouts facts that are not based on proper scientific observations

  3. Antarctic ice is at its highest level in recorded history, polar bear numbers are up, NASA itself admits that it's only 38% sure that 2014 was the warmest year of the last 100 years. They said they have 38% confidence in a 0.02 deg increase w/ a 0.1 deg margin of error! Human impact on the climate is minuscule & a CO2 tax won't change temps at all. But it will destroy of millions of jobs and raise energy prices, slamming the poor. Look at the US & Europe. Fracking for natural gas has caused CO2 emissions in the US to FALL MORE than in Europe, which wasted billions on emissions cuts. 

  4. There is MUCH more ice in the antarctic cap, and it is not melting, it is growing.  The warming of our planet by the sun, causes the CO2 to increase, not the other way around.  Climate change is caused by the sun's energy, which is trapped by the green house gasses in our atmosphere, warming our planet.  CO2 has almost no effect on our climate, water vapor on the other hand has a large effect.  Maybe we should regulate water emissions.

  5. I don't even believe in much Climate Change happening now, but still, just move to Nuclear. Nuclear is safe (Chernobyl was caused by the Soviet Union's bad reactor design, because they were just pumping them out), efficient, does not pollute (except in minuscule amounts), is beneficial to most ecosystems (In a pond in Miami next to a nuclear reactor, the water is used as coolant. The hot water coming out of the reactor is beneficial to cold blooded animals like Alligators, and that lake is home to many endangered species), and produces A TON of energy. Now, we have Nuclear Fusion coming out too, which is even better on all of these reasons than Nuclear Fission (What we use today). 

  6. IF…
    Less Arctic Ice = Less reflecting of the Suns rays
    ——> Global Warming

    THEN???
    More Reflective Roofs and Driveways = More reflected Sun rays

    ..
    .
    —->Paint the World White to Fight Global Warming!!!

  7. The thing that strikes me most about this video is that NOBODY REALLY KNOWS what is going to happen.  Just that whatever does will likely be EXTREME.

  8. It's interesting how the narrator conveniently leaves out the rest of the world to get to the answer he wants.  The Antarctic's negative feedback is conveniently ignored.The fact is that we are releasing more carbon than ever in history, and that global warming is one significant probable result of that.  We should act as if it's true due to the possible consequences.  Turning carbon credits into a global financial profit machine is not the answer. 

  9. 1:09 – 1:15 Could someone explain to me how the opposite is possible? I don't get it…
    If it warms up how can it freeze more?

  10. The YouTube Crazy arctic weather by Rutgers scientist Jennifer Francis is very useful in getting deep into recent science on this subject.

  11. Propaganda , scientific prostitution. " scientists " are Government employee adn has to get what the boss wants and pay for.
    It's about TAXES.

  12. There is not climate change ! Scientists said that is global warming. Stay with scientists !
    Well, there is no warming and must be climate change .
    Something normal is presented as disaster , just to get more taxes.
    Europe and North america was under ice for 120 000 years . Ice was melted before Trump was born. hahahah
    It's a Religion with a false God.

  13. We need emergency geoengineering now. Start spraying reflective aerosols in the atmosphere to alleviate temperatures until we find a more permanent solution

  14. Why the melting of the Arctic will likely lead to global agricultural collapse is the missing piece of information that folks should understand. Plus 2degrees.

  15. we are at the end of an ice age … it goes in cycles… Google : World maps before an ice age …then world maps after a ice age …

  16. Plants tree and stop maiking roads and stop consumming products that need to travel more than 100 km. And also never almost eat beef.

  17. Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and the Warm Arctic-Cold Continent Conjecture may be additional factors to consider. Looking at where the head of the elephant is pointed is a good start to determining where the animal is headed. But you really need to look at the rest of elephant (ie the legs) to figure out where it really is going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *