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Scientists have discovered another vicious cycle that has taken root in our environment due to climate change — this time, between sea ice and clouds. New NASA research has found that melting arctic ice is exposing the surface of the Arctic ocean, in turn fueling cloud formations that blanket the Arctic and keep it too warm to refreeze. Now, scientists are hypothesizing that this cycle may not be limited to the Arctic.
Why This Matters: The Arctic is warming 2 to 3 times faster than the rest of the globe, but the consequences are wreaking havoc worldwide. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study in December 2020 found thatwarming melting sea ice not only increases permafrost erosion and intensifies Arctic wildfires, it harms the environment’s ability to heal and regenerate. This new study confirms once again that climate change not only changes temperatures, but can devastate the earth’s natural systems in ways that may not recover in our lifetimes.
Ice Under Cover
The research team observed their findings primarily over a large hole in the Arctic ice sheet between Greenland and Canada known as the North Water Polynya. The exposed ocean surface releases heat and moisture previously trapped under the ice, fueling the formation of clouds that cover the region and trap heat. This can have devastating effects, such as preventing new sea ice from freezing. “We’re getting more heat and moisture from the ocean going into the atmosphere because the sea ice acts like a cap or a barrier between the relatively warm ocean surface and the cold and dry atmosphere above,” said Linette Boisvert, a sea ice scientist at NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center. “This warming and moistening of the atmosphere slows down the vertical growth of the sea ice, meaning that it will not be as thick, so it’s more vulnerable to melt in the summer months.”
The clouds over the polynya were found to emit more heat and hold up to four times more water than clouds over sea ice. Even when the polyna refroze, these clouds persisted for at least another week. “Just because the sea ice reforms and the polynya closes up, that doesn’t mean that conditions go back to normal right away,” explained Boisvert.
The team plans to use satellites equipped with sensors that analyze clouds at multiple levels of the atmosphere to evaluate whether other regions where sea ice and open ocean meet are displaying the same phenomenon.
NASA Takes It Further
NASA just launched a high-tech observational satellite into orbit from California. The device will track climate change, urban sprawl, glacial melt, agricultural health, and more. The Landsat 9 is the ninth satellite in the series which began in 1972. “Landsat is our longest-lived remote sensing program,” said Dr. Jeff Masek, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Since 1972, it has amassed over nine million multispectral images of Earth’s land in coastal regions.”
UNESCO has launched a new program to collect, analyze, and monitor environmental DNA (AKA eDNA) to better understand biodiversity at its marine World Heritage sites. Scientists will collect genetic material from fish cells, mucus, and waste across multiple locations along with eDNA from soil, water, and air. The two-year project will help experts assess […]
It’s about time we had a conversation about the birds and the bees…or in this case, the otters and the seagrass. A new study found that the ecological relationship between sea otters and the seagrass fields where they make their home is spurring the rapid reproduction of the plants. Otters dig up about 5% of […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor An abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen is deteriorating rapidly, and experts say that a hull breach could have far-reaching environmental impacts and threaten millions of people’s access to food and water supplies. The FSO SAFER tanker holds 1.1 million barrels of oil — more than four […]
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