GENEVA 29 November 2011 World Meteorological Organization- The 13 warmest years have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997. The extent of Arctic sea ice in 2011 was the second lowest on record, and its volume was a new record low of 4200 cubic kilometres, surpassing the record of 4580 cubic kilometres set in 2010.. The Arctic summer sea ice is in a rapid extremely dangerous melt down process.
The Arctic is one vast ecosystem that is a major component of the planet's climate system. As such, changes to the Arctic reverberate throughout the biosphere far into the future.
For several years methane has been emitted as the Arctic warms and atmospheric methane has been increasing which scientists say is now due to planetary feedback methane emissions. This Arctic methane feedback situation today can start an uncontrollable sequence of events that would make world agriculture and civilization unsustainable. It is real threat to the survival of humanity and most life.
The Arctic is warming three to four times faster than the rest of the planet due the Arctic amplification effect. This rapid Arctic warming has the Arctic Ocean on track to be virtually ice free by 2015. This is a well-known most dangerous positive (bad) feedback process that leads to more warming.
If not prevented, this large loss of cooling will boost the rate of Arctic warming, northern hemisphere warming and even global warming.
We are looking at a series of tipping points or a deadly domino effect.
There are five big general reasons why current changes in the Arctic constitute a planetary emergency.
1. The climate science of climate change commitment - today's warming is already committed to a very large increase, even without any more GHG emissions.
2. The rapid loss of Arctic albedo Spring - Summer snow and sea ice albedo cooling
3. Arctic amplification (now 2 to 3X the global average warming) due to Arctic albedo loss. This means the Arctic is committed to warm many times its warming of today. The Arctic is more sensitive than we ever imagined.
4. Arctic methane feedback emissions are all already operant and atmospheric methane since 2007 is on a renewed sustained increase. .
5. Northern hemisphere temperate weather climate is already being disrupted as snow and sea ice albedo disappears, which affects temperate NH food productivity.
The shiny white Arctic snow and ice surface reflects solar energy away having a cooling 'albedo' effect. As Arctic snow and ice melt, the albedo drops resulting in a positive feedback increasing Arctic and Northern hemisphere warming. When ice and snow are replaced by dark land surface or open ocean water, heat energy is absorbed increasing the additional warming even more. This increased rate of warming in the Arctic compared to the rest the planet is called Arctic polar amplification. The Arctic is presently warming three times faster than the rest of the planet.
Arctic methane feedback
The Arctic holds the planet's largest stores of carbon, until recently safely cold or frozen. These are northern peatlands, terrestrial permafrost, and Arctic sub sea floor frozen solid methane gas hydrate. Due to the rapid Arctic warming all of these sources of carbon, they are releasing additional carbon mainly as methane, which has a global warming capacity 72 times that of CO2 for 20 years after emission. A combination of catastrophic Arctic feedback loops is therefore operant or triggered.
Climate Tipping Points
Methane Hydrate ‘frozen methane’ - In Tundra & On Continental Shelves
Methane is an especially powerful greenhouse gas. There are large amounts of methane presently locked up, frozen, in high latitude tundra and, especially, in ocean sediments on continental shelves. We know from Earth’s history that this frozen methane can be released suddenly by sufficient warming – thus this methane has the potential to greatly amplify human-made global warming, if that warming reaches a level, a tipping point, such that large volumes of frozen methane begin to melt.
Global Warming Time Bomb: Actions Needed to Avert Disaster James Hansen Club of Rome Global Assembly 2009
Northern Hemisphere food security.
The vast area of Arctic snow and summer ice is the 'air conditioner' of the entire northern hemisphere. It is impossible for the loss of 100s of sq. miles of albedo not to disrupt the NH climate. The loss of Arctic sea ice albedo will increase temperate northern hemisphere climate variability, extreme heat and drought.
Our greatest concern is that loss of Arctic sea ice creates a grave threat of passing two other tipping points -- the potential instability of the Greenland ice sheet and methane hydrates. These latter two tipping points would have consequences that are practically irreversible on time scales of relevance to humanity.
Dr.James Hansen quoted in: 'Arctic Sea Ice Heads For Record Low As Melt Beats Forecasts' Bloomberg, August 17, 2012.
The loss of Arctic sea ice is dangerous to the entire planet. The Arctic has the greatest concentration of planetary tipping points. Some environmental and biological elements may be linked in a domino effect of tipping points that cascade rapidly once the summer sea ice is lost Prof Carlos Duarte Jan 2012
Commentary by Dr Jeff Masters: Earth's attic is on fire
It is an emergency that requires immediate urgent attention.
For all humanity and all life there exists an Arctic rapid climate change planetary emergency - requiring a rapid drastic global emergency response to avert global climate planetary catastrophe.
For the northern hemisphere (and world) food production and for the life supporting biosphere, Arctic snow, sea ice and carbon must be at least stabilized.
Global greenhouse gas emissions must be (and readily can be) put into rapid decline immediately, as the IPCC has said over the past ten years (the 2007 4th IPCC assessment)
Beacuse the Arctic is now a net source of carbon emissions, this now also requires regional Arctic artifical cooling.
This Arctic emergency situation is comprehensively explained in this US petition As Goes the Arctic So Goes the Planet.
The March 2014 report What We Know by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS largest world science organization) makes the extreme risk from the Arctic clear. Here is what the AAS said regarding the Arctic situation.
In 2007 the UNEP GEO 4 assessment concluded that global climate change was a 'threat to the very survival of humanity'. In 2009 the UNEP Year Book warned that 'There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major Earth systems and ecosystems, may already have been reached or passed. [...] 'The potential for runaway greenhouse warming is real and has never been more clear'.
The 2003 NASA Arctic warming research still applies today. Arctic temperature and sea ice cover may be a harbinger of global climate changes to come, according to a recent NASA study. It has been determined that the rate of warming in the Arctic has acclerated - from 1981 to 2001 it is eight times larger than the rate of Arctic warming over the last 100 years and there was a furher acceleration after 2001. The biggest temperature increase was over North America. The same trend has continued over the past decade.
Three extraordinary research projects published 2012-2013, one on a Siberian crater lake, one on Arctic permafrost and one on Arctic methane hydrate, has changed the situation of the Arctic under global warming dramatically and reinforces the Arctic warming planetary emergency.
A Siberian crater lake shows the region was 8C warmer (atmospheric CO2 was 320-400ppm) than it is now. Today's CO2 is 400 ppm. The Arctic is far more sensitive to warming than imagined Siberian Times May 2013
In 2008 and again in 2012 James Hansen made a public statement that a state of planetary emergency existed because the record loss of Summer Arctic Sea Ice had crossed the Summer ice free tipping point.
For years scientists have been warning that the loss of the Arctic summer sea ice albedo would be a very strong amplifying feedback boosting Arctic and global warming. Now we realize the Arctic albedo cooling is also due to the vast expanse and Spring-Summer NH snow and the Greenland ice sheet surface, that are both losing their cooling albedo effect due to rapidly increasing melting.
2011 Experts: HIGH RISK OF PERMAFROST THAW
All Known Arctic feedback processes