Over the past 10 years, the ice in the Arctic has decreased by 14%. Experts believe, that in 2035 summer in the Arctic may pass with no ice at all. However, melting ice and snow in this region does not directly affect sea level. If so, why should we bother? Scientists believe, that the reasons still can make us panic.
Of course, the first question is, where are the polar bears going? For this species, which is already close to extinction, the question of the disappearance of ice is extremely critical. Rapid melting would certainly mean a deep shift in the region’s marine ecosystems, from phytoplankton to whales. However, if you look at it from a human point of view, the danger is not so obvious, but it is.
One of the main problems with ice cap shrinking is the reflective power of the ice that will leave with it. Melting is not only a symptom of global warming, but also its driving force. Freshly fallen snow reflects 80% of the solar radiation force back into space. But when the snow-white surface changes to dark blue, the Earth, on the contrary, absorbs energy and heats up.
Besides the problem of heating, there is a danger of changing ocean currents. The Earth’s complex climate system includes interconnected ocean currents driven by wind, tides, and thermohaline circulation (the difference in water density due to salinity and temperature). Even small changes in this huge ocean conveyor belt that travels between the poles across all three major oceans can have devastating consequences for the climate.
The rapid influx of fresh water from the Arctic region can greatly affect thermohaline circulation, which in turn can greatly change weather conditions in many regions of the world.
These two factors will greatly affect people’s lives. And yet, polar bears will be the first to take the hit. According to the July research in the journal Nature, the current trajectory of climate change and the onset of an ice-free summer will indeed lead to the extinction of polar bears from starvation by the end of the century.
“Human-induced global warming means polar bears have less and less sea ice to hunt in the summer months,” said Stephen Amstrup, study lead author and chief scientist at Polar Bears International. “The ultimate trajectory of polar bears with unrelenting greenhouse gas emissions is extinction.”