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Arctic Ice Cap Effect

Although global temperatures fluctuate naturally, over the past 50 years the average global temperature has augmented at its fastest rate in recorded history. The emission of greenhouse gasses such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and Methane (CH4) render the Earth’s atmosphere more transparent to visible radiation from the sun than to infrared radiation emitted and reflected from the planet’s surface (NASA Earth Observatory).

With this extra heat trapped within the atmosphere, the temperature of the surface of the planet increases very slightly over hundreds of years. However these small incremental increases in the Earth’s surface temperature accumulates to an amount which can severely effect the climate of the planet. The greenhouse effect takes place when heavy gas particles such as CO2 sits in the lower atmosphere and absorbs the infrared and microwave radiation emitted from the Planet’s surface.

This extra heat absorbed by the gas particles means that less heat is radiated back into space which in turn cools the planet’s surface temperature, the extra heat retained by the “blanket” of greenhouse gases can have dire effects on the environment, but particularly on the Arctic ice caps. Sea and cap ice on the surface of the planet is integral to ensure the stability and sustainability of the Earth’s climate. The fusion (melting) of the arctic ice caps has severe environmental and climatic consequences that cannot be resolved once all ice has dissipated from the planet’s surface.

Across the past 10,000 years Earths arctic ice caps have sequentially frozen completely during the winter and fused partially in the summer. However since the 1970’s the Arctic ice caps have been in a constant state of latent heat, this is because the average temperature of a polar climate rarely exceeds 0˚C. The additional heat energy retained by the atmosphere through the greenhouse effect is absorbed by Arctic ice caps as latent heat, which in turn amplifies the extent of melting during the summer, and also diminishes the overall regrowth and size of the ice cap in the winter. Hypothesis:

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the average summer decline of ice in the arctic has steadily risen by 9% every decade since the 1970’s, and in the next thirty years it is estimated that if the current greenhouse gas emission rate continues to grow at the linear rate that it presently is, the summer in the arctic will be completely ice free. Without preclusion, the effects of the melted ice caps will be catastrophic causing a reduction in ocean salinity, reducing the amount of sunlight reflected back into space and also effecting ocean currents resulting in an increased amount of extreme weather events.

These effects will consequently increase the rate of global warming over the subsequent decades and centuries. Body: The rate at which the Arctic ice cap is melting is a very worrying sign of the sheer extent at which global warming is gripping our planet. The melting of the Arctic ice cap has many consoquences, that will intensify the rate of global warming and also the overall sustainability of human expansion.

Rising sea levels is one obvious consequence of the melting Arctic ice cap and according to the UCSB science line if the Arctic ice cap melts completely the world wide sea level is predicted to rise up to 6. 096 metres. This seemingly insignificant figure could possibly inundate low lying coastal towns and cities, costing millions of dollars to relocate and compensate for the damage caused by the sea level rise. Further adding to the consequences, such a sea level rise could cause extensive erosion of the continents, islands and possibly other ice caps.

The extra infrared radiation captured by atmosphere through the greenhouse effect is transferred into the Arctic ice caps as potential energy where the water (H2O) molecules vibrate faster and break their bonds due to the process of latent heat, where the temperature of the ice is prevented from falling or rising until the bonds break and a state change occurs. Thus increasing sea levels. The National Snow & Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) states “Arctic sea ice keeps the Polar Regions cool and helps moderate global climate. Sea ice has a bright surface, 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes it is reflected back into space.

As sea ice melts in the summer, it exposes the dark ocean surface. Instead of reflecting 80 percent of the sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90 percent of the sunlight. The oceans heat up, and Arctic temperatures rise further. ” The reflection and refraction of visible radiation back into space helps regulate and mitigate the amount of sunlight absorbed by the planet, thus reducing the overall temperature. If all Arctic sea ice melts due to the effects of global warming, the radiation that would otherwise be reflected back into space will be absorbed by the ocean there by increasing ocean temperatures.

The consequences of increased heat levels in the ocean would be catastrophic causing more severe storms to be formed as warmer water temperatures cause’s more severe weather events. Without regulation from the arctic ice cap, the “cyclone season” will be extended, increasing the amount of severe storms to hot costal countries. Ocean salinity is vital for the survival and reproduction of many sea animals, and as the Arctic ice cap is 100% freshwater, when melted the ice cap reduces ocean salinity because the salt content within the ocean has not risen but the water (H2O) volume has.

According to sciencelearn. org. nz “Marine animals are adapted to keep their body salts at a constant level, so that they don’t interfere with the metabolism within cells, but significant changes in salinity can cause problems for some. ” The parts per thousand (PPT) level of seawater is currently at 36 and a significant drop or increase would catastrophically affect the worldwide eco-system forcing many species of sea animal into extinction.

Another effect of a higher ocean salinity is that the water is denser thus meaning that minimal amounts of light are reflected back into space, advancing the rate of global warming extensively. Conclusion: According to credible sources such as NASA, National Geographic and the National Snow & Ice Data Centre the Arctic ice cap will be a monument of the past in the next 30 years as global warming and greenhouse gases gradually choke our atmosphere heating everything in its wrath. NASA has stated that over the past forty years that the full size of the ice cap has decline by 9% every decade.

Without the bright surface of the sea ice to reflect radiation back into space, global warming will soar as the planet absorbs the full complement of solar radiation heating ocean temperatures. Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow as our planet is doomed to the same grim fate of Venus. All simulated forecasts for the future of our planet by NASA have pointed to greenhouse gases being the biggest world issue for the next century, and without action now, humanity and the planet will not survive for long.

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