Thursday, December 8, 2016

Victoria's Green Matters - 8th December 2016

Deal With IT's Secretary Victoria Nicholls writes a regular column in the East Kent Mercury:

It is astonishing to read that air temperatures are 20°C above the seasonal normal in the Arctic and sea temperatures are nearly 4°C higher than average for the time of the year.

This sort of dramatic change makes it likely that tipping points will occur; this happens when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, suffers sudden change that has a huge effect on surrounding ecosystems which is often irrevocable.

There are several climate tipping points, identified in the Arctic Resilience Report released last month. The research was compiled by eleven organisations including the Arctic Council and six universities. Amongst other changes there is growth in dark vegetation on the tundra which replaces the reflective snow and ice, absorbing more heat; as the tundra warms more than normal amounts of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas, are released; there are movements in snow distribution that warm the ocean which result in changed climate patterns many miles away in Asia where the monsoon may be altered.

The Arctic ice cap helps to cool sea and air temperatures by reflecting most of the sun’s radiation back into space. It also acts as a cooling system when winds blow over it and the ocean currents flow under it. It has been known for a long time that the ice cap plays a vital part in the global climate systems but to observe and monitor these systems has been both difficult and expensive and only in recent years have scientists been able to make detailed evaluations.

Human activity throughout the world has led to climate change of an unprecedented degree and will greatly increase the risk of more tipping points occurring so reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is vital.

If we need yet another focus for anxiety, it has been revealed that the US president- elect has plans to remove the budget for climate change science, used by NASA and others, for research into Arctic changes, and to spend the money on space exploration!

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