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Melt Rate

Speeding Up AND Slowing Down - The world works in mysterious ways: While Arctic sea ice has been diminishing in recent decades, ice in the Antarctic has been increasing slightly. Something strange is going on out there.

Researcher Jiping Liu says, "We wanted to understand this apparent paradox so that we can better understand what might happen to the Antarctic sea ice in the coming century with increased greenhouse warming."

Currently, as the atmosphere warms, the hydrological cycle accelerates and there is more precipitation in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. This increased precipitation, mostly in the form of snow, stabilizes the upper ocean and insulates it from the ocean heat below. This insulating effect reduces the amount of melting occurring below the sea ice. In addition, snow has a tendency to reflect atmospheric heat away from the sea ice, which reduces melting from above.

However, this protection won't last: Climate models predict greenhouse gases will continue to increase in the 21st century, which will result in the sea ice melting at a faster rate from both above and below. Increased warming of the atmosphere is expected to heat the upper ocean, which will increase the melting of the sea ice from below. In addition, increased warming will also result in a reduced level of snowfall, but more rain. Because rain doesn't reflect heat back the way snow does, this will enhance the melting of the Antarctic sea ice from above.

Researcher Judith A. Curry says, "Our finding raises some interesting possibilities about what we might see in the future. We may see, on a time scale of decades, a switch in the Antarctic, where the sea ice extent begins to decrease."

"Mankind is trapped. I want to help you spring the trap.""The veil between the worlds can fall. The undiscovered country can become your backyard.""Your destiny, each of you, is to become all of God."Find out who said these provocative words and first alerted Whitley to the facts about global warming, which he then wrote about in his book which became the hit film The Day After Tomorrow.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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