Arctic Climate Tipping Point Happening Now! Sea Ice in Its "Death Spiral" Scientist Claims

arctic sea ice extent on 8/26/2008 image

image: NSIDC

After yesterday’s ominous news that North American permafrost (and presumably European and Asian, as well) stores 60% more greenhouse gases than we thought, here’s another siren announcing that we are rushing full speed ahead towards a climatic tipping point:

Scientists are reporting that the extent of sea ice in the Arctic is at the second lowest point on record. Currently ice covers 2.03 million square miles; last year's sea ice coverage, 1.59 million square miles, set the record. In the past ten years Arctic sea ice has declined 10 percent.

Given the seriousness of the situation, I’ll let the scientists speak for themselves:
We Are Watching the Tipping Point Happen
Mark Serreze, a scientist from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado was quoted by Reuters:

No matter where we stand at the end of the melt season it’s just reinforcing this notion that Arctic Ice is in its death spiral.

Serreze also told the AP that:

We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point. It’s tipping now. We’re seeing it happen now.

Climate Change Happening More Quickly Than Models Have Predicted
The same article quoted NASA ice scientist Jaw Zwally as saying that within 5-10 years the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer. He added that this also means that:
Climate warming is also coming larger and faster than the models are predicting and nobody’s really taken into account that change yet.

As a commenter pointed out in my post on permafrost from yesterday, this is really the sort of news that should be on the front page of every newspaper, at the top of the broadcast of every nightly news service. I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.

It's hard to not sound shrill with this: Climate change is happening more quickly than we thought in the Arctic and the frozen soils in the region contain a lot more stored carbon than the models used so far. Unless we get a handle on this now (yesterday would've been even better) global warming could very well overtake our efforts to slow it. That's not to say that we should throw in the towel (as no doubt some people will think) but rather is another sign that we have to redouble our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global level.

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