“Unprecedented” events could signal faster and abrupt climate breakdown
In the second half of March 2022 temperatures in Antarctica reached record levels, an astonishing 400C above normal in places.
At the same time, weather stations near the North Pole also showed signs of melting, with some temperatures 300C above normal, hitting levels normally attained far later in the year.
The danger is twofold: heatwaves at the poles are a strong signal of the damage humanity is wreaking on the climate; and the melting could also trigger further cascading changes that will accelerate climate breakdown.
Last year, in the first chapter of a comprehensive review of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of unprecedented warming signals already occurring, resulting in some changes – such as polar melt – that could rapidly become irreversible.
At this time of year, the Antarctic should be rapidly cooling after its summer, and the Arctic only slowly emerging from its winter, as days lengthen.
For both poles to show such heating at once is unprecedented.
As polar sea ice melts, it reveals dark sea that absorbs more heat than reflective ice, warming the planet further. Much of the Antarctic ice covers land, and its melting raises sea levels.
The warning made by the scientists
Scientists warned that the events unfolding were “historic”, and we need to take immediate action to mitigate climate change. We can start by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.
I think it’s important to listen to what Michael Mann has to say about the weather. He’s a scientist who has studied climate change for many years, and he knows what he’s talking about. The fact that he is saying that the extreme weather we’re experiencing is exceeding predictions should be alarming to all of us. We need to take action now if we want to prevent even more damage from being done.
Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science at University College London, said: “I and colleagues were shocked by the number and severity of the extreme weather events in 2021 – which were unexpected at a warming of 1.2C. Now we have record temperatures in the Arctic which, for me, show we have entered a new extreme phase of climate change much earlier than we had expected.”
The melting of the poles is a concerning trend that could have devastating consequences for our planet. James Hansen, a former NASA scientist, has been warning governments about global heating for more than three decades and says that this year’s Arctic sea ice could break a decade-old record. If we don’t take action to address this issue, it could have serious consequences for our environment and economy. We need to do everything we can to reduce our emissions and transition to renewable energy sources in order to protect our planet from the worst effects of climate change.
James Hansen: “The average sea ice thickness has been declining, so it’s ripe for large sea ice loss,” he warned. “The effect of reduced sea ice cover is to amplify Earth’s energy imbalance that’s caused by increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) — the GHGs reduce outgoing heat radiation, thus causing a net imbalance that’s heating the planet.”
“Reduced sea ice cover increases the planetary energy imbalance, as a dark ocean reflects less sunlight than sea ice does.”
What we can do?
The latest unprecedented weather patterns follow a series of alarming heatwaves in 2021, most notably in the US Pacific north-west, where previous records were shattered by several degrees as temperatures climbed close to 50C.
The trend is worrying and suggests that the Earth’s climate is changing faster than we thought.
This could have devastating consequences for our planet and its inhabitants if action isn’t taken soon.
We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and invest more in forest, carbon sequestration, renewable energy sources if we want to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change.
Taken from original article:
by Fiona Harvey