More Signs of Global Warming

July 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Every summer, the ice in the polar regions melts back to some extent, under the 24-hour eternal sunshine.  But each winter, with frigid 24-hour nights, most of that ice refreezes, due to temperatures that drop far below zero.  But in recent years, there has been more melting each summer, than refreezing in the winter.  So the ice covered portion of the polar seas grows a little smaller with each passing year.

That is important, because ice and snow cover is bright white and highly reflective.  Sunlight that strikes the ice is mostly reflected back into space.  But sunlight that strikes the dark ocean surface is mostly absorbed, heating the ocean.  That of course, leads to more melting of the ice, which leads to more absorption of solar radiation, in a feedback cycle that accelerates the warming and melting.

As expected, this summer, the Arctic ice pack near the North Pole has begun to melt.  But what was completely unexpected is that in the middle of winter, in the southern hemisphere, a large ice sheet on the coast of Antarctica has begun to collapse and break up.  

Collapsing Ice Sheet in Antarctica - Courtesy European Space Agency

The Wilkins Ice Shelf, which used to be a solid mass of ice stretching from the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula to Charcot Island offshore has thinned out, as shown by this satellite photo taken on July 9, 2008.  The last stretch of the ice bridge between the two may disintegrate in the coming weeks.  This is just unheard of to be occurring during the winter months.

Here is more on that alarming development from MSNBC, including a time-lapse of the disintegrating ice shelf:

Chief Meteorologist David Finfrock


1 Comment »

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  1. And what if it all melts?

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