Another positive feedback that is predicted to occur in the Arctic is
the release of methane gas from the thawing of the permafrost region.
Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide
and the more methane that's released, the warmer the atmosphere could
Troubling Signs of Climate Change Seen in Arctic
Effects of Global Warming Evident, As Polar Ice Cap Melts
Sep. 27, 2005 - This season has ushered in the warmest Arctic summer
in 400 years. A NASA report to be released this week finds the polar
ice pack has shrunk by nearly 30 percent since 1978, and new
satellite photos show the melting is speeding up.
Scientists say the Arctic may be caught in a vicious cycle of global
warming. As ice melts, there's less white matter to reflect the sun's
heat back into space. The dark ocean absorbs more of the sun's heat
and that, in turn, melts more of the ice pack.
ABC News traveled to the northern tip of America Point Barrow,
Alaska to document the other dramatic effects of global warming.
During the summer, people who live in the region have a practice of
storing whale meat in ice cellars dug into the permanently frozen
ground. But when whale hunter Eugene Brower took an ABC News crew to
see his, he was shocked by what he found.
"The skin and blubber should be frozen!" he said. "It's thawing out."
Typically in the Arctic, any ground deeper than about four feet has
always been frozen. But the permafrost is now starting to melt.
At Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of the United States is melting
"The bluff edge was out there by about 150 feet or so just 10 years
ago," said scientist Ann Jensen.
Since melting permafrost leaves the ground soft and with far less
frozen surface to block the waves, the water carves away at it. Old
graves are tumbling into the sea.
"They keep getting exposed," said Jensen. "People don't really want
to see their ancestors getting washed into the ocean."
People, Animals Forced to Relocate
Whole villages are tumbling into the ocean, forcing people to
relocate -- as well as many animals.
Black guillemots began nesting this far north 40 years ago, when
temperatures started to rise.
Now scientists are watching the birds get driven out by puffins,
warmer weather birds from the sub-Arctic, which kill the chicks and
take over the nests.
"Yesterday, it's the Arctic, and now suddenly, it's turning into the
sub-Arctic!" said biologist George Divoky.
As the sea ice disappears, many polar bears are starving because they
must have sea ice on which to hunt.
And the culture of local residents, whose life has centered upon
hunting on the ice, is changing as well.
"It's often too dangerous now, due to the thin ice," said Fred Simik,
an Inupiat native.
Another cause for worry: scientists report that as the permafrost
melts and this vast Arctic tundra dries up, decaying plants in the
soil are releasing increased amounts of carbon a greenhouse gas
that only adds to the warming and melting.
"Humans are putting about 6 [billion] or 7 billion metric tons of
carbon in the atmosphere every year," said biologist Walter Oechel,
director of the Global Change Research Institute at San Diego State
University. "And we're standing on 200 billion tons here," he added,
pointing to the tundra.
Just how soon that carbon may get released is unclear. But those who
live in the area have moved on from the debate about whether global
warming is real. They're living with it.
ABC News' Bill Blakemore filed this report for "World News Tonight."
Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org
, Todd Edelman
> From an ongoing series about BOD: Boat-oriented
> The area covered by sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk
> for a fourth consecutive year, according to new data
> released by US scientists.
> [Nothing about rising sea levels BUT:]
> "What we're seeing is a process in which we start to
> lose ice cover during the summer," he said, "so areas
> which formerly had ice are now open water, which is
> "These dark areas absorb a lot of the Sun's energy,
> much more than the ice; and what happens then is that
> the oceans start to warm up, and it becomes very
> difficult for ice to form during the following autumn
> and winter.
> "It looks like this is exactly what we're seeing - a
> positive feedback effect, a 'tipping-point'."
> To help you stay safe and secure online, we've developed the all
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