The End Of The Arctic As We Know It

Sea ice provides an ecosystem for various polar species, particularly the polar bear, whose environment is being threatened as global warming causes the ice to melt more as the Earth’s temperature gets warmer. Furthermore, the sea ice itself functions to help keep polar climates cool, since the ice exists in expansive enough amounts to maintain a cold environment. At this, sea ice’s relationship with global warming is cyclical; the ice helps to maintain cool climates, but as the global temperature increases, the ice melts and is less effective in keeping those climates cold. The bright, shiny surface (albedo) of the ice also serves a role in maintaining cooler polar temperatures by reflecting much of the sunlight that hits it back into space. As the sea ice melts, it’s surface area shrinks, diminishing the size of the reflective surface and therefore causing the earth to absorb more of the sun’s heat. As the ice melts it lowers the albedo thus causing more heat to be absorbed by the Earth and further increase the amount of melting ice. Though the size of the ice floes is affected by the seasons, even a small change in global temperature can greatly affect the amount of sea ice, and due to the shrinking reflective surface that keeps the ocean cool, this sparks a cycle of ice shrinking and temperatures warming. As a result, the polar regions are the most susceptible places to climate change on the planet. Furthermore, sea ice affects the movement of ocean waters. In the freezing process, much of the salt in ocean water is squeezed out of the frozen crystal formations, though some remains were frozen in the ice. This salt becomes trapped beneath the sea ice, creating a higher concentration of salt in the water beneath ice floes. This concentration of salt contributes to the salinated water’s density, and this cold, denser water sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This cold water moves along the ocean floor towards the equator, while warmer water on the ocean surface moves in the direction of the poles. This is referred to as “conveyor belt motion,” and is a regularly occurring process. Credit: Wikipedia.

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