New research estimates that The Arctic may be warming four times faster than the rest of the world

How concerned should we be?

Besides sea ice, the Arctic contains other climate components that are extremely sensitive to warming. If pushed too hard, they will also have global consequences.

One of those elements is permafrost, a (now not so) permanently frozen layer of the Earth’s surface. As temperatures rise across the Arctic, the active layer, the topmost layer of soil that thaws each summer, deepens. This, in turn, increases biological activity in the active layer resulting in the release of carbon into the atmosphere.

Arctic permafrost contains enough carbon to raise global mean temperatures by more than 3℃. Should permafrost thawing accelerate, there is the potential for a runaway positive feedback process, often referred to as the permafrost carbon time bomb. The release of previously stored carbon dioxide and methane will contribute to further Arctic warming, subsequently accelerating future permafrost thaw.

A second Arctic component vulnerable to temperature rise is the Greenland ice sheet. As the largest ice mass in the northern hemisphere, it contains enough frozen ice to raise global sea levels by 7.4 meters (24.2 feet) if melted completely.

When the amount of melting at the surface of an ice cap exceeds the rate of winter snow accumulation, it will lose mass faster than it gains any. When this threshold is exceeded, its surface lowers. This will quicken the pace of melting because temperatures are higher at lower elevations.

Leave a Comment