Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a rate much faster than scientists ever predicted and its collapse, due to global warming, may well cause extreme weather this winter in North America and Europe.Decades ago, Arctic ice covered about 6 million square miles of sea in the winter, and would shrink to about 3 million square miles in the summer. The rate of summer melt increased enormously around 2005, however, and today scientists say Arctic ice covers only about 1 million square miles.
The loss of Arctic ice has several effects. Ice reflects heat and solar energy back into space. With less ice cover, that heat energy is instead absorbed by the ocean, which warms and melts more ice. Currently, the Arctic region is the fastest-warming region on the planet, and the change in temperature will probably influence weather patterns here and in Europe.
The heating and cooling of Arctic seawater has been affecting the jet stream – the river of air that flows from west to east high above the Earth’s surface – and has slowed it down, Francis said. The jet stream controls the formation and movement of storm systems, so when its movement slows, weather conditions persist for longer periods of time over the same area. They get “stuck.”
The week’s hottest temperature was 115.5 degrees Fahrenheit (46.4 degrees Celsius) at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The week’s coldest temperature was minus 112.7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80.4 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.
The first eight months of 2012 have been the warmest of any year on record in the contiguous United States.
Wildlife authorities say the strong earthquake off the coast of El Salvador destroyed more than 45,000 endangered sea turtle eggs .
The director of the turtle conservation program for the El Salvador Zoological Foundation says the 7.4-magnitude undersea quake sent at least three waves at least 30 feet high up the beach and destroyed thousands of nests and just-hatched turtles.
In the last year and a half the foundation has successfully hatched and released 700,000 turtles from four species at risk of extinction.
As expected, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record.
Satellites tracking the extent of the sea ice found over the weekend that it covered about 1.58 million square miles, or less than 30 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s surface, scientists said. That is below the previous record low, set in 2007, but with weeks still to go in the summer melting season, it is clear that the record will be beaten by a wide margin.
Arctic sea ice is set to reach its lowest ever recorded extent as early as this weekend, signalling that man-made global warming is having a major impact on the polar region.
With the melt happening at an unprecedented rate of more than 100,000 sq km a day, and at least a week of further melt expected before ice begins to reform ahead of the northern winter, satellites are expected to confirm the new record – currently set in 2007.
The ice-free season is now far longer. Twenty years ago it was about a month. Now it’s three months. Temperatures last week in the Arctic were 14 degrees C.
The rate at which wildlife is dying off in the remaining fragments of rainforests in Brazil is greater than previously thought. What was previously one cohesive area of rainforest where wildlife could roam free has now been cut up and divided by roads, cities, farms, and other forms of deforestation.
In the 196 fragments of forest visited, scientists found only 4 of the 18 mammal species they were looking for.
Among the highly endangered creatures were howler monkeys and marmosets. And species like white-lipped peccaries, which are similar to pigs, have been completely wiped out.
The situation was worse than previously thought. All the charismatic species, the large primates, the large ungulates, brocket deer, tapirs, giant anteaters, jaguars, the large cats have all but disappeared.