How A Melting Arctic Changes Everything (Part 1)

How A Melting Arctic Changes Everything (Part 1).

This photo-journalistic article charts the receding Arctic ice over the years that is impacting our world in more ways than we can imagine. What’s happening in the Arctic? Why is it happening? And does it matter for the bulk of us who live thousands of miles away from it? Conditions in the Arctic change dramatically through the seasons. In the depths of winter, the Earth’s tilt puts the Arctic in 24 hour-a-day darkness. Cold temperatures year round, plunge even lower. The sea surface freezes over. At the height of summer, the opposite tilt puts the Arctic in 24 hour-a-day sunlight. While it’s a cold place even at these times, the constant sunshine, warmer air, and influx of warm waters from further south serve to melt the ice. The ice cap usually starts shrinking in March, and then reaches its smallest area in mid-September, before cooling temperatures and shorter days start the water freezing and the ice cap growing once again. When scientists and reporters talk about an ice-free Arctic, they’re usually speaking of the Arctic in summer, and especially in September, when ice coverage reaches its minimum. The amount of ice left at that minimum has been plunging. In 1980, the ice shrank down to just under 8 million sq km before rebounding in the fall. In 2012, the minimum extent of 3.4 million sq km is less than half of what we saw in 1980. Strikingly, two-thirds of the loss of ice has happened in the 12 years since 2000. On 10 September 2016, the second lowest extent measured by satellites since 1979, recorded 4.137 million sq km. The ice is receding, and the process, if anything, appears to be accelerating.

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