The terrifyingly ominous phrase “Arctic death spiral” refers to a chart that measures the continual melt laying waste to the ice in the Arctic Circle over the last 30 years. Climate scientists have issued repeated warnings that the Arctic death spiral is the Earth’s “canary in a coalmine,” and that greenhouse gas emissions must be curbed in order to fend off certain destruction. As time passes and global temperatures continue to rise, many conservationists are arguing that the point of no return is just ahead. In an op-ed for the Guardian, environment editor John Vidal discusses the new book by Peter Wadhams, the Cambridge professor who has devoted his life to the study of icy environs, and why it’s time to start listening to the warnings.
Wadhams, former director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, wrote that the North Pole could be free from ice in just a few decades, rather than the popular prediction of the end of the century. For the Guardian, Vidal points to Wadhams’ new book “A Farewell to Ice,” to be released Sept. 1, as a daring but worthwhile position on the topic of climate change. While most estimates suggest Arctic ice is being lost at a rate of 13 percent each year, Wadhams says, soon the summer ice will melt as well, causing a dangerous trickle-down effect.
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Many scientists have drawn clear connections between Arctic conditions and the effects of climate change elsewhere on the planet, further illustrating why we should pay attention to Arctic ice melt. Wadhams’ book explains that ice-free Septembers in the Arctic will enable more methane to be released into the atmosphere, and when the ice-free period of the year lengthens to four or five months, the additional greenhouse gas emissions will force the planet over its tipping point.
For those who haven’t been studying Arctic ice, a book by the world’s foremost sea ice expert may help. After the concept of the Arctic death spiral emerged, scientists from many agencies have been working to better understand the relationships between Arctic events and the health of the rest of the world. The 2013 documentary “Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb,” which is available for streaming here, offers a startling look at where unchecked global warming will lead.
Via The Guardian
Images via Andy Lee Robinson/Haveland and NOAA