Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Climate change: melting

In 2005, the arctic ice-cap shrank to its smallest extent in recorded history. In 2007, that record was smashed. And now we seem to be headed for another record year of melting:

Satellite images show that ice caps started to disintegrate dramatically several days ago as storms over Alaska's Beaufort Sea began sucking streams of warm air into the Arctic.

As a result, scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole could exceed last year's record loss. More than a million square kilometres melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened its grip on the Arctic. But such destruction could now be matched, or even topped, this year.

Santa-Claus better invest in some water wings.

The scary thing is how fast it is happening. A few years ago, scientists were predicting the arctic could melt by 2070. In 2005, they lowered that to 2030. Now they're talking 2013. As with the rainforest and clathrates, everything is happening much faster than we thought it would - meaning that climate change isn't just a problem which will affect future generations, or even us in the distant future ("in our lifetimes", to use a favourite phrase). It is happening now, and we will have to deal with those severe effects in the very near future.