CFCs Could Be Making The Arctic Warm Faster

Photo: BBC

According to a new study published in the Journal Nature late last month, chlorofluorocarbon gasses (or CFCs), that were widely recognized for causing the ozone hole over the Antarctic, “could be responsible for up to half of the effects of climate change observed in the Arctic from 1955 to 2005.”  It is especially relevant because another study released just yesterday in Live Science found that the rapid melting is reshaping the Arctic before the residents’ very eyes — Arctic permafrost can thaw so quickly that it triggers landslides, drowns forests and opens gaping sinkholes.

Why This Matters:  While it sounds like more bad news, the paper actually provides a “shred” of optimism because “Arctic warming and sea-ice melt might be tempered in the future as ozone-depleting substances continue to leave the atmosphere.”  Global CFC concentrations have been on the decline for 20 years because of the 1989 adoption of the Montreal Protocol, which phased out their use in things like air conditioners.  The findings, if proven, could finding could help to explain why climate change in the region, which has long puzzled scientists. The Arctic is warming at more than twice the average rate of the rest of the globe and anything that might help us to understand why this is would be good news.  Particularly for those in the region who have to deal with it as the melting erodes their very way of life.

Arctic Melting Fast

Scientists call the Arctic the “epicenter” of global warming and learning more about the rapid changes there first hand is a struggle for scientists, as explained recently by The Washington Post. The biggest Arctic scientific expedition is underway, and they are in a race against time to understand the complex Arctic ecosystem before it collapses.  The latest study on permafrost melting found that the problem is more widespread than once thought. According to the authors, approximately “20% of the Arctic’s permafrost — a blend of frozen sand, soil and rocks — also has a high volume of ground ice, making it vulnerable to rapid thawing.”  And as the permafrost melts it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution because it releases stored carbon into the atmosphere and that then speeds up global warming causing what more melting in a vicious “feedback loop.”  This is why the CFC impact on Arctic melting would be so helpful to understand.  The CFC study result is not yet fully accepted by experts, but Susan Strahan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA says that the work is “interesting and provocative.”

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