January 20, 2012

Explaining Why Climate Change is Amplified at the Poles


Ned Gardiner: Temperature in the Arctic has risen twice as fast as the global average. That means: even if you haven’t experienced climate change, people in the Arctic have. Jackie Richter-Menge explains why.

Jackie Richter-Menge: We use temperature to monitor what’s going on just like if you were feeling poorly, you would take your temperature. What we can see in the Arctic is that it has a fever. As a consequence we look to the reason why there is that change.

In the Arctic you have this nice bright white sea ice surface. When that sea ice surface melts away you are losing that surface that helps keep sunlight bouncing back into space and replaces it with the dark ocean that absorbs the temperature, so you begin to get this cycling feed back. You get a little bit of melting of the sea ice cover. It exposes ocean. The ocean warms up, melts more sea ice, and you begin to get an acceleration of that warming signal.

We expect temperatures to continue to increase until the end of the 21st Century.



Related video: The Arctic Report Card: Highlights from 2011

Related article and images: Highlights of the 2011 Arctic Report Card.