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Scientists Warn of Melting Ice in Arctic

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  • Pat N self only
    ... Scientists Warn of Melting Ice in Arctic Scientists on Monday painted a gloomy picture of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, warning of melting
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 7, 2006
      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      Scientists Warn of Melting Ice in Arctic
      Scientists on Monday painted a gloomy picture of the effects of
      global warming on the Arctic, warning of melting ocean ice, rising
      oceans, thawed permafrost and forests susceptible to bugs and fire.

      "A lot of the stories you read make it sound like there's
      uncertainty," said Jonathan Overpeck, a professor of geosciences at
      the University of Arizona. "There's not uncertainty."

      The questions scientists continue to address, he said after his
      presentation at the Alaska Forum on the Environment, are how much of
      the warming is caused by humans and how drastic long-term effects
      will be.

      Deborah Williams, a conference organizer and former director of the
      Alaska Conservation Foundation, said Alaska is Ground Zero for
      observing the effects of global warming because so many natural
      phenomena are tied to ice and the repercussions of it melting.

      "We are the Paul Revere of global warming," she said.

      Overpeck reviewed NASA studies showing how Arctic ice has shrunk in
      size and depth. Climate models 25 years ago predicted a shrinking ice

      "What we didn't predict is that it would be so dramatic," Overpeck

      Scientists predict the summertime Arctic could be ice free before the
      end of the century, opening up northern sea routes but threatening
      the existence of polar bears, a marine mammal that depends on sea ice
      to live.

      Other scientists ticked off the effects of warming on fish, forests
      and tundra.

      James Overland, a research scientist with the National Oceanic and
      Atmospheric Administration for more than 30 years, said the loss of
      sea ice has meant some marine life has thrived and some has been

      "The marine ecosystem is shifting north dramatically," he said.

      Pollock are thriving in warmer water. Pink salmon are being found in
      great numbers farther north, "an incredible indicator of warming," he
      said. Crab and other bottom-dwellers who depend on ice overhead for
      part of the year are suffering.

      Glenn Juday, professor of forest ecology at the University of Alaska
      Fairbanks, said tree growth has decreased at Interior Alaska sites
      that were promising for commercial harvest. Studies of temperatures
      at Talkeetna and Fairbanks indicate daily lows are not as low as they
      used to be. The warming lowers the water available to white spruce,
      black spruce and birch, Juday said.

      "The warmer it is, the less the trees grow," Juday said. Warming also
      makes them more susceptible to fire and insects.

      Vladimir Romanovsky, an associate professor of geophysics at UAF,
      reviewed effects of warming on permafrost, or ground continuously
      frozen for two years. Areas of thick permafrost in the far north
      remain stable but have warmed over 20 years one-half to 2 degrees at
      a depth of 20 meters, Romanovsky said.

      Matthew Sturm of Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory
      studied shrubs in Arctic tundra by comparing 50-year-old photographs
      taken along the Chandalar River for the National Petroleum Reserve-
      Alaska with photos taken recently.

      "They all pretty much tell the same story," he said.

      Shrubs have thrived in the greater warmth and in turn accelerate
      warming. Like open water in the ocean, shrubs darken what otherwise
      would be a mostly white, reflective snow-covered environment, Sturm

      If warming trends continue, Overpeck said, the globe eventually will
      get a nasty message from the Arctic: a rise in sea levels. Higher
      oceans will flow into low-lying parts of the world such as New
      Orleans, making recovery in that hurricane-ravaged city moot.

      "It's hard to imagine why we're wanting to rebuild if we're going to
      allow global warming," Overpeck said.



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