Hong Kong Campaigns Manager, Gloria Chang:
Glaciers are retreating. Ice caps are melting. Oceans are acidifying. The Arctic is under threat from both climate change and increased oil drilling.
At the end of this summer, Hong Kong campaigns manager Gloria Chang joined independent ice scientists from the University of Cambridge's Polar Ocean Physics Group on board the Arctic Sunrise. Gloria was helping to measure Arctic sea ice thickness around Norway's Warbah Islands. The thinning of sea ice reveals how fast and how serious climate change is happening.
While we were measuring sea ice thickness bad news came from the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. They reported that the Arctic summer sea ice extent had plummeted to the second lowest level in recorded history. You might think this doesn't sound so bad, but in reality it really is serious. The lowest level was in 2007, but that year the Arctic was experiencing some extreme weather conditions which were responsible for the sea ice coverage reaching record lows. But this year, there was no extreme weather in the Arctic, so we can see the serious extent of climate change and how it is causing rapid melting of Arctic sea ice.
As sea ice recedes, the face of the Arctic is changing: wildlife lose their home, climate change is kicked up a notch, sea channels are opened up increasing shipping and the associated dangers of oil spills, and oil companies begin to jostle over the right to exploit for oil and gas.
Canaries made of ice
Arctic sea ice acts like the planet's air conditioning system and, like miners who used canaries to warn of deadly gases, we have the extent and volume of this ice to warn us of climate change. The most visible impact of climate change is the disappearing Arctic sea ice. Melting sea ice creates an evil feed-in loop, further accelerating the melting and climate change itself.
Step One: As the white reflective surface of ice melts there is less white space to reflect the sun's rays and so the darker ocean surface ends up absorbing more heat, meaning warmer seas and more ice melting.
Step Two: The warmer seas and climate change are melting Arctic permafrost (frozen soil). Underneath are massive pockets of methane gas which are released when the permafrost melts. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, thus intensifying climate change.
Let's take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the Arctic today, so that we can build up our movement to preserve it for tomorrow.
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