October 23, 2009
NOAA Report Warns Of Dire Temperature Changes In Arctic
In an annual update on the condition of the planet's Arctic zones, Richard Spinrad, chief of research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, warned that the affects of global warming may be wreaking havoc on the planet's built-in thermostat.
According to report from Spinrad's team, average temperatures in and around the North Pole continue to climb while sea ice and glaciers are melting rapidly, disrupting both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
In a press briefing on the report, Spinrad explained that the Arctic regions function as a sort of natural global temperature regulator, buffering fluctuations in oceanic temperatures and thus helping to stabilize global weather patterns.
"Especially the loss of sea ice," he explained, "is messing with that thermostat for the whole globe."
A point of particular concern for a number of scientists from various fields is the rapidly vanishing sea ice that has been around for thousands of years, said James Overland of the Nation Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Research Laboratory.
Once gone, the ancient sheets of ice will not quickly return, he added.
Other findings noted in the report included the following:
-Ambient Arctic air temperatures rose to a record 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average temperatures between October and December of 2008.
-Researchers have gathered evidence that elevated air temperatures could be affecting patterns of air circulation not only in the Arctic but also in regions south of the pole.
-Satellite images revealed that the area covered by ice this summer had decreased by some 25 percent below the average between 1979 and 2000.
-The surface layer of fresh water atop the Arctic Ocean has also reached record levels as a result of the massive quantities of water released from the melting glaciers and ice sheets.
-Even taking into the significant account annual and regional variability, statistics showed that the trend towards ever shortening snow seasons observed in recent years continued in 2008-09, as spring thaws continue to set in earlier and earlier.
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