Monday, February 17, 2014

Wrong Again. Science Underestimates Impact of Loss of Arctic Sea Ice - By a Country Mile.

Scientists have long warned that the loss of Arctic sea ice was warming the polar region and contributing to climate change impacts.  It's basic physics.  Ice, being white, reflects solar energy.  Exposed ocean water, being dark, soaks up solar energy.  Warmer ocean water releases more heat and water vapour to the atmosphere... yada, yada, yada. 

So what's new?  The latest research suggests the science community has underestimated just how much 'darker' the Arctic has grown from loss of sea ice.  Okay, underestimated by a factor of what?  Oh dear -  two, maybe three times previous estimates.  Two to three hundred per cent, that's a lot.

How did researchers get it so wrong?  Well, earlier studies used computer models.  The latest research is based on satellite readings.   The difference could explain a lot of things like how the sea ice, which just a few years ago was expected to disappear in summer by the end of this century, is now expected to be gone by the end of this decade.  Recalibrating the numbers could also give us a much better idea of the impacts our new, hotter Arctic will be visiting upon us here in the south from here on in. 

Update - I heard from lead author, prof Ian Eisenman, yesterday.  Apparently the computer models didn't fully anticipate actual sea ice loss in recent years.   Once corrected, the projections fell into line with the satellite results.

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