Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Changing Climate of the Arctic

We had a guest speaker come in and present a slide show describing "climate drivers" or natural and man made forces that drive the worlds climate and weather.

On concept was Forcing Mechanisms, which disrupt the Earth's energy balance and are caused by a little something called anthropogenic forcing mechanisms. An example presented to the class about the Earth being out of balance was the fact that there has been a 21% increase in CO2 over the past decade. Current computer models predict that the Earth will have an overall temperature increase of 1-4 degrees by 2100 and an ice free Arctic by 2020.

One natural climate driver presented was the Beaufort Gyre. As per wikipedia's description: "The Beaufort Gyre is a wind driven ocean current located in the Arctic Ocean. The gyre contains both ice and water. It accumulates fresh water by the process of melting the ice floating on the surface of the water." As current wind pattern around the globe change it may be possible that fresh water from the Gyre may "spill" out into the North Atlantic and have impacts on the climate and the circulation of the ocean.

The Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) study through the University of Manitoba examines the physical changes and their effects on biological processes with flaw leads. Flaw Leads is a term describing how waterways open up between pack ice and fast ice. This is an annual event in the Arctic and involves pack ice drifting away from coastal ice. Polynyas (bodies of water surrounded by ice) can form and are a indicator of sorts of global warming. These natural ice holes have grown to vast sizes in recent years as annual ice buildup in the Arctic is less and less every year.

Our Presenter stated that we need to do more research into the Arctic and how it functions in order to better understand climate change and its effects. To do this she said that permanent geological and meteorological research stations need to be implemented in and around the Arctic and funding increased.

There was a lot of information presented such as a satellite video of the Arctic's annual ice formation. It was a deep insight into what is happening in terms of climate change and what where scientists get their facts from. All in all the presentation emphasised the already major issue of climate change and the fact that we have to do something about it soon.

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