Why it matters
The ultimate ice storm
25th October 2008
Warmer temperatures are not the only reason Arctic sea ice is shrinking: More frequent and intense storms have hastened the breakup of the ice
According to a study reported in this month’s Geophysical Research Letters that analyzed Arctic atmospheric and oceanic data from 1950 to 2006, cyclones and other storms have become more frequent and are occurring farther north, pushing chunks of broken sea ice a greater distance and faster around the North Pole.
“The intensity of the storms have grown stronger in the Arctic, and this trend will continue in the future,” says the lead author of the study, Sirpa Hakkinen of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Dr. Hakkinen notes that this study confirms what many climate models have predicted: that global warming will make the planet stormier.
At the same time, there is a possibility that disappearing sea ice and more turbulent waters in the Arctic could draw more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the sea, acting as a brake on global warming.
To make things more complicated, there is also the risk that more carbon dioxide drawn into the oceans will make global waters more acidic, threatening corals and shelled animals, and the rest of the food chain.
Published in The Green Report in The Globe and Mail