December 3, 2008

Pollution Causing Arctic Ice To Darken And Melt Rapidly

Soot is tarnishing the ice in the Arctic and adding a swiftness to the melting that could cause the ocean in the North Pole to be without any ice well before 2050, experts announced on Tuesday.

Experts stated that in order to resist the impact of global warming in the Arctic, we should re-focus and center more on stopping the industrial greenhouse gasses like soot, ozone and methane in Europe, North America and Russia.

Soot darkens the ice which causes it to absorb heat, increasing the speed of melting. Methane is produced from sources like oil, gas and agriculture, and ozone is produced by industrial pollutants.

"Reductions in these pollutants would have a greater impact" in the upcoming two decades instead of stopping emissions of carbon dioxide. This information is coming from scientists at the 187-nation U.N. climate talks set in Poland.

The Arctic is growing increasingly warmer at twice the pace of the rest of the world and ice melted to an all time low in 2007, causing worries that it could eventually melt away completely.

"The Arctic sea ice may already have passed a 'tipping point'," said Pam Pearson, an Arctic pollution expert at the Climate Policy Center. "An ice-free summer Arctic is now possible well before 2050."

"Some scientists are arguing that it (the Arctic Ocean) could be (ice free) in summer within the next 10 to 20 years," added Bob Watson, a former head of the U.N. Climate Panel.

The three main pollutants of soot, ozone and methane, remain in the atmosphere a shorter time than carbon dioxide, implying that decreasing emissions may have a faster impact in reducing the toxins in the air.

"The question is: is all of the rapid melt of the Arctic ice in summer all due to human induced climate change or is part of it some natural cycle? We clearly have to understand it," Watson said.

"This is not just a climate issue for the Arctic but for the globe as a whole," added Hanne Bjurstroem, the head of Norway's delegation.

A thaw of the Arctic's ice will cause warming at in the North and cause additional warming in the south. An ice-free Arctic will also cause the area to become susceptible to oil and gas drilling and shipping.