North pole ice cap now an island
For the first time in recorded human history, the Arctic is completely surrounded by open water, new satellite images reveal.
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But the opening of the Arctic is not a blessing for all. The ice is a habitat for polar bears, who could face extinction as it melts. Two weeks ago nine polar bears were spotted swimming far from the shore in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. According to Reuters, only 12 polar bears were spotted in open water between 1987 and 2003Skip to next paragraph
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Those who do not believe that global warming is occurring often argue that, while Arctic sea ice is melting, ice in the Antarctic is growing. This is partly true: Ice in the eastern part of the southern continent have increased in recent years. But a paper issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration explains that this increase, counterintuitive as it may seem, is consistent with rising global temperatures:
Typically, warming of the climate leads to increased melting rates of sea ice cover and increased precipitation rates. However, in the Southern Ocean, with increased precipitation rates and deeper snow, the additional load of snow becomes so heavy that it pushes the Antarctic sea ice below sea level. This results in even more and even thicker sea ice when the snow refreezes as more ice. Therefore, the paper indicates that some climate processes, like warmer air temperatures increasing the amount of sea ice, may go against what we would normally believe would occur.
Update: The New York Times's Dot Earth blogger, Andrew Revkin (it could be, I suppose, an Andrew Revkin impersonator), posted a comment linking to his blog post saying that it's not quite that simple. According to Revkin, the US National Ice Center reports an what is likely an impassible icy spot on the Russian coast. It probably appeared as open water on the satellite images because there are ponds of meltwater on top of the ice. Other experts concur. If they're right, then the Arctic is now a bulbous peninsula, not an island.
Update 2: Actually, it is that simple. Revkin has confirmed that the Arctic is surrounded by open water. The web address to his original post has been scrubbed and is now a dead link.