Going, Going, GONE: Two Arctic Ice Caps Have Disappeared
Two little Arctic ice caps that Mark Serreze studied as a graduate scholar within the early 1980s may not have been as grand and dramatic as different options of our planet’s cryosphere, however to him they nonetheless had been fairly particular.
Have been fairly particular — previous tense — as a result of Serreze, who now directs the Nationwide Snow and Ice Information Middle, has confirmed that the 2 ice caps on the Hazen Plateau of Canada’s Ellsmere Island have disappeared. They’re the victims of human-caused warming that has occurred 3 times extra quickly within the Arctic than wherever else.
The disappearance was confirmed utilizing current photographs from the ASTER instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite tv for pc.
The highest picture, acquired by the ASTER instrument aboard the Terra satellite tv for pc, reveals the St. Patrick Bay ice caps in 2015. The underside picture, acquired by the identical instrument in 2020, reveals that they are gone. (Credit score: NSIDC)
“After I first visited these ice caps, they appeared like such a everlasting fixture of the panorama,” Serreze says. “To observe them die in lower than 40 years simply blows me away.”
Serreze first visited the ice caps in 1982. The area is a polar desert — a really dry, very chilly place. He was drawn to do the work on this inhospitable setting as a result of “I grew up in Maine the place we had actual winters and I cherished snow and ice.” (He additionally stories that he obtained superb at “driving ice floes down the Kennebunk River.”)
As with many individuals who go to the Arctic, he was obsessed on the panorama. “A ski-equipped Twin Otter dropped us off on the high of the larger ice cap,” he says. “It was a uncommon, clear windless morning. I used to be awed by the pristine whiteness of the snow, absolutely the silence, that I may see 50 miles in each course, and that I’ll properly have been standing on floor that no one had ever stood on earlier than.”
A web page from Mark Serreze’s discipline guide reveals a community of stakes he and fellow researchers laid out on the bigger of the 2 St. Patrick Bay ice caps in 1983. (Credit score: Mark Serreze through NSIDC)
A long time later, he knew that warming temperatures had been bringing concerning the demise of those options, generally known as the St. Patrick Bay ice caps. Gathering all of the proof, he and colleagues revealed a paper in 2017 predicting they might disappear inside 5 years. Now we all know they had been proper.
As a narrative posted right now on the NSIDC web site explains:
“In 2017, scientists in contrast ASTER satellite tv for pc knowledge from July 2015 to vertical aerial images taken in August of 1959. They discovered that between 1959 and 2015, the ice caps had been lowered to solely 5 p.c of their former space, and shrank noticeably between 2014 and 2015 in response to the particularly heat summer season in 2015. The ice caps are absent from ASTER photographs taken on July 14, 2020.”
The shrinkage of the St. Patrick Bay ice caps between 1959 and 2015 is documented on this graphic from the 2017 paper by Serreze and his colleagues. The 1959 outlines are primarily based on aerial images. These for 2001 come from GPS surveys. And the 2014 and 2015 outlines come from ASTER imagery. (Supply: NSIDC)
Though the disappearance was no shock, it hit Serreze exhausting. “It was like watching a sick pal slowly waste away from some terrible illness,” he says. “I knew the top was coming, however nonetheless could not be fully ready for it.”
The St. Patrick Bay ice caps comprised half of a gaggle on the Hazen Plateau, all believed to be relics of the Little Ice Age, a interval of cooling temperatures which started across the begin of the fourteenth century and lasted till the 1800s. The 2 others, the Murray and Simmons ice caps, are at a better and thus colder elevation. They haven’t been shrinking as rapidly, however they’re probably doomed to observe within the footsteps of their siblings.
I requested Serreze what individuals ought to take away from what’s occurring. Right here was his reply:
“Local weather change could be very, very actual, and as lengthy predicted, the Arctic is main the best way. We’re geoengineering our planet, and we do not appear to wish to settle for that we’re headed for a really totally different world.”