One measure of the warming of the planet is the extent of Arctic sea ice. Parts of the plant warm at varying rates while some parts of it cool. That is the complexity of global warming and within all the data and statistics you can bring almost every interpretation that you want, and every interpretation may at first sight seem justified or accurate. However subject tom all these qualifications, I like to keep a close watch on the extent of the Arctic sea ice in summer.
The extent of the arctic summer sea ice is important because the less ice that exists in the Arctic the more warming of the region must inevitably follow. This is because radiation, which when it strikes a surface excites the molecules of that surface to rub together creating friction, which is heat. When radiation strikes a white surface much of the radiation bounces back into space. This is called the albedo effect. When radiation strikes a dark surface it is absorbed as heat, which is why at Genersys we make our solar thermal panels black (or blue black) to absorb heat, and this is why all solar thermal panels are black or blue black and none are while.
It stands to reason that the more radiation the sea absorbs the warmer that sea becomes and the warmer that sea becomes the less ice can form on it.
When the extent of sea ice is measure it is taken by convention not to be the contiguous area of the ice bound Arctic but that part of the Arctic that has more than 15% ice. This year the extent of Arctic Sea ice, as measured by radar from satellites, look like breaking the 2007 record for the lowest extent, and then by some margin.
This is highly persuasive evidence that global warming is happening and that the warming is rapid. It is not conclusive evidence. Perhaps it might be conclusive when the Arctic is ice free in summer – defined by the same 15% definition.
The ice melt will be disastrous in the long term for the planet. It will hasten global warming for two reasons; the first I have already referred to is the loss of albedo. The second reason is that as the ice melts methane trapped in ice and in the soils of the surrounding tundra and taiga will melt as the knock on effect of an ice free Arctic is felt. There is already evidence of methane bubbling under the arctic and in the surrounding land and methane will hasten global warming.
In the short term many nations will prosper as a result of the ice melt; Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway will all be able to exploit minerals and fuel found under the Arctic. The United States is trying to claim some of the Arctic through its ownership of Alaska but without ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not have a place at the negotiating table. At the moment the USA is too important to ratify this convention. Expect ratification as more ice melts. China is cosy-ing up to Iceland who may have some Arctic territorial claim.
If the Arctic becomes ice free it opens up the North West passage to shipping. Canada claims that the sea route is wholly within Canadian waters and the rest of the world claim that the sea route is an international waterway. The distinction is important because if Canada’s claims are upheld expect the ruthless exploitation of the sea way at the expense of the environment. Such exploitation would be entirely consistent with Canada’s record of failing to protect the environment and its aboriginal people where such protection gets in the way of self-enrichment.
Norway has a reasonable record on environmental protection, as does Denmark. As far as Russia is concerned its own environmental record is as poor as that of Canada.
Whatever you may think of global warming, the nations that have Arctic claims believe in it, and are positioning themselves to pluck the first fruits of global warming, before those fruits turn to ashes in our mouths.
Filed under: carbon emissions, climate change, global warming, solar panels | Tagged: Arctic Ice extent, Arctic national claims for sovereignty, methane, North West Passage, UN Convention of the law of the sea | 1 Comment »