The influence of polar ice on the evolution of our planet – science fans STEM

From a cosmic point of view, the Earth canPale blue dotIn a huge universe. However, if you take a closer look, it quickly becomes clear that life is teeming with the surface of our home planet – often in some of the most extreme environments. It almost has 4 billion yearsendure five major Extinction events and Ice ages. Earth can very well be an oasis in a cosmic desert!

However, our globe and its inhabitants are now facing a new challenge: man-made global warming. As the global temperature display continues to rise in response to increasing frequencies Greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide and methane) that trap the sun’s rays in our atmosphere, the consequences get worse.

Michael Gooseff (CU professor at the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research) and an international team of 14 authors take a closer look at the dynamics of global warming and its possible future effects analyzed the effects of polar ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Arctic, in particular, was the main target of their study due to the accelerated warming compared to the rest of the planet. Since 1880, this region has experienced a temperature increase of 2 3 to 3 experienced; in comparison, the earth warmed by 0.8 ° C in the same period. In a “business as usual” scenario, the Arctic is expected to warm by 13 ° C by the end of the 21st century – yikes! But what do scientists think will happen as a result of this warming? How could such progress affect the evolution of the Earth’s atmosphere? Cryosphere, and biosphere?

A major concern is the potential transition to an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean, which is imminent considering that Arctic ice has decreased every month for the past 40 years. Local polar bear populations in the Arctic have borne the brunt of this transition. For them, hikes over less stable sea ice and open water lead to greater physical exertion and increased nutritional stress, which threatens their survival.

Credit: Steve Connor (The Independent)

However, the consequences of the melting ice in the Arctic are not limited to this region. “The poles are connected to the rest of the world. What happens at the poles has an impact on weather and sea levels all over the world, ”said CU researcher Gooseff.

For example, one of the most notable effects of polar melting is medium-wide weather extremes. The author’s reason for that Rossby waves (Giant meanders from high altitude winds) can drive these abnormal weather patterns. These western waves help to transport hot air from the tropics to the poles and cold air from the poles to the tropics. Under normal conditions, they maintain atmospheric balance and pass through high and low pressure zones around the world. However, when these waves come to a standstill, severe weather (ie flooding and heat waves) can occur. Standing pressure areas can also form the polar vortex, a low-pressure zone of cold air above the poles, and force it to spread southwards, which leads to freezing temperatures in medium latitudes. These processes are thought of intensify when there is a high contrast between land and sea temperatures, which is expected to increase with increasing global warming.

Probably the most obvious effect of polar sea ice loss is the rise in sea level. In this context, the authors examine the effects of warming of 7 ° C in the Arctic, 3 ° C in the Antarctic and 2 ° C worldwide. The researchers report a predicted 0.5m rise in the global ocean at the end of the 21st century, mainly due to the thermal expansion of seawater, the melting of mountain glaciers, and the increase in ice sheet flow and meltwater runoff from Greenland and Antarctic ice Leaves.

“Many polar ecosystems have shown resilience to changes in state,” said Gooseff. “However, there is an expectation that continued warming in the polar regions will drive many systems beyond the turning points.”

What about the effects of polar warming on large herbivores? The connection between Tundra shrub and a decrease in sea ice abundance can help shed light on the matter. The authors have used this relationship in their study of the Yamal peninsulawhere almost 340,000 reindeer live. What they discovered was that warming increases foliage growth during the summer. In winter, however, the warming leads to extensive rain-on-snow events. As a result, the shrub encrusted with ice makes the vegetation inedible and subsequently leads to a massive mass hunger of the reindeer.

Extensive reindeer mortality in Western Siberia. Half domesticated reindeer, frozen after the most extensive and severe rain-on-snow event ever recorded on the Yamal peninsula in western Siberia, which starved at least 61,000 animals in the winters of 2013-2014. (Photo credit: R. Serotetto)

The final focus of her analysis was on the abrupt changes in the Antarctic ecosystem. The researchers examined Antarctica McMurdo dry valleys (MDVs) ecosystem and report a decadal cooling period between 1987-2000. During this time, the MDV had thickened ice, lowered the lake level, reduced the melting of the glaciers and dry soils. In 2002, however, warm temperatures and an increased glacial melt came. This led to improved current flows, thinning ice and elevated sea levels. The following decade showed no clear pattern of summer air temperatures or solar radiation. The authors suspect that these unpredictable events could anticipate future responses to rapid climate change.

Earth’s atmospheric, cryogenic, and biosphere responses to polar melting are beginning to emerge, and the authors have described how some of the effects, such as sea level rise, extreme weather, environmental disruption, and climate variability, range from poles to poles across medium latitudes . International efforts are needed to alleviate these problems and slow global warming. This can be achieved primarily through the universal reduction of CO2 emissions. Without this, warming at the poles and around the world is likely to accelerate. More current and planned NASA Earth science missions will be critical to tracking accurate space-based measurements of precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, ice cover, snow cover, climate and ozone trends on Earth.

Ultimately, our efforts will determine whether the earth remains an oasis in which life continues to thrive.

by Jimmy Negus

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