The thinning of the north polar cap has been a concern of scientists for years, but this summer it appears that the ice is thinning fastest at its center, right around the pole itself. This is unexpected and unprecedented and could lead to an ice-free arctic much sooner than expected. Most scientists did not expect such an event to take place for another 10 to 30 years. The more open ocean there is over the arctic, the less heat is reflected and the more methane is released from underwater methane hydrates and melting permafrost. Methane is 30 times more efficient a heat trap than CO2.
For the first time in human history, there will soon be no ice at the North Pole. In the June 27th edition of the Independent, Steve Connor quotes researcher Mark Serreze as saying, “From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water.”
Although it’s an ominous sign of continuing global warming, it’s not bad for the locals: it opens the way for Arctic nations to reach oil and mineral deposits which have been impossible to get at because of the thick sea ice.
Art credit: gimp-savvy.com
The magnetic North Pole is leaving Canada and will eventually wind up in Russia. Larry Newitt, of the Geological Survey of Canada, says, “Although it has been moving north or northwest for a hundred years, it is not going to continue in that direction forever. Its speed has increased considerably during the past 25 years, and it could just as easily decrease a few years from now.”
The Earth’s magnetic field comes from its outer core, and is produced by the movement of molten iron 1,850 miles below the surface. It’s also influenced by charged particles from the sun. The magnetic North Pole is different from the geographic North Pole, which is a fixed point on the planet. The magnetic pole is currently 600 miles from the geographic one.
The Earth?s magnetic poles might be starting to flip, according to Gauthier Hulot of the Institute of Earth Sciences in Paris and his colleagues, who have seen strange anomalies in the Earth?s magnetic field.
The magnetic field is created by the flow of molten iron inside the Earth?s core. These circulation patterns are affected by the Earth?s rotation, so the field normally aligns with the Earth?s axis, forming the north and south poles.