Climate Change: All That Is Solid Melts Into Water
Sometimes, the future arrives with alarming speed. In the 1990s, and again in 2000, climate scientists warned that – unless urgent action was taken – the Arctic Ocean could be clear blue water in summer by 2050. Making a first analysis of data from the European Space Agency’s observation satellite CryoSat-2, researchers were startled to find that the loss of sea ice – as measured both by depth, and by area – was far more dramatic than their own forecasts had predicted. The summer Arctic could be an open sea within a decade.
The difference between the torrid tropics and the icy Arctic governs weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. The frozen ocean and permafrost at the perimeter prevents ground methane from escaping into the atmosphere and thereby accelerating global warming. The polar seas drive the marine ecosystem and fuel the north Atlantic fish stocks. So the consequences of ice loss could be considerable, although nobody with political authority seems so far to have sufficiently considered them. Bad news from the far north has just been matched by a bleak warning from the tropics. German, US and Australian scientists report in Nature Climate Change that the double menace of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and rising ocean acidity could spell the end for most of the world’s coral reefs.