One of the world’s leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years. That’s earlier than the Earth’s predicted demise in December of 2012, but it could be a major cause of it.
In the September 17th edition of the Guardian, John Vidal quotes climatologist Peter Wadhams as calling it "a global disaster."
He says, "Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades’ time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward." These include burying carbon dioxide in the ocean, reflecting the sun’s rays back into space, making clouds whiter and seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more CO2, These include reflecting the sun’s rays back into space, making clouds whiter and seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more CO2.
Meanwhile, pollution is warming the atmosphere through summer thunderstorm clouds. How much the warming effect of these clouds offsets the cooling that other clouds provide is not yet clear.
Pollution strengthens thunderstorm clouds, causing their anvil-shaped tops to spread out high in the atmosphere and capture heat, especially at night.
Researcher Jiwen Fan says, "Global climate models don’t see this effect because thunderstorm clouds simulated in those models do not include enough detail. The large amount of heat trapped by the pollution-enhanced clouds could potentially impact regional circulation and modify weather systems."
Clouds are one of the most poorly understood components of Earth’s climate system. Called deep convective clouds, thunderstorm clouds reflect a lot of the sun’s energy back into space, trap heat that rises from the surface, and return evaporated water back to the surface as rain, making them an important part of the climate cycle.
Inside a thunderstorm cloud, warm air rises in updrafts, pushing tiny aerosols from pollution or other particles upwards. Higher up, water vapor cools and condenses onto the aerosols to form droplets, building the cloud. At the same time, cold air falls, creating a convective cycle. Generally, the top of the cloud spreads out like an anvil. When it’s not too windy, pollution leads to bigger clouds, since they tend to form around the tiny particles emitted from places like power plants, which is yet another reason to clear up our air.
The Guarian quotes Wadhams as saying, "As the sea ice retreats in summer the ocean warms up, and this warms the seabed too. The continental shelves of the Arctic are composed of offshore permafrost, frozen sediment left over from the last ice age. As the water warms the permafrost melts and releases huge quantities of trapped methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas so this will give a big boost to global warming."
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