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article imageArctic ice melt is faster than thought, ecosystem in peril

By Stephanie Dearing     Feb 6, 2010 in Environment
Canadian Professor David Barber spoke to a symposium Friday about the findings of a 2008 study of Arctic ice. The study is called the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System.
Winnipeg, Manitoba - Professor David Barber spent last winter in the Arctic circle studying the sea ice. At a press conference Friday, he cautioned students and media that the Arctic ecosystem is under threat of collapse. Barber said "It's happening much faster than our most pessimistic projections ... It's an early indicator of what we can expect to happen further south. We can expect things to happen faster here, too."
Partly funded by the Canadian government, Barber and a team of 370 scientists from around the world spent the winter of 2008 on board the Canadian ice breaker, CCGS Amundsen studying the Arctic ice. The preliminary findings were released Friday at noon at a press conference hosted by FortWhyte Alive. There were a reported 300 scientists at the event, as well as students and media.
Not only did the scientists find the Arctic ice had thinned, Barber said the Amundsen was in open water all winter long. The impacts of the loss of ice have meant more variability in the Arctic weather and more storms. According to CBC News, "Barber compared the impact of losing sea ice in the Arctic to the loss of trees in a tropical rain forest.
The Arctic sea ice isn't just a cap on top of the ocean, Barber said. "The sea ice breathes," he said. "It pumps carbon dioxide in and out."
The meltdown affects everything, Barber cautioned. “We know we’re losing sea ice. The world is all aware of that. What you’re not aware of is that it has impacts on everything else that goes on in this system. We’re just starting to understand that from a scientific perspective.”
The melting ice poses different threats. Barber said the ice is full of toxic contaminants, which are released back into the environment when the ice melts. Wildlife in the Arctic is negatively impacted by the loss of ice and degraded habitat. Animals that live in the Arctic will also experience more competition for resources as species move north. And finally, the melting ice contributes to global warming, and while there was no prediction made as to when we might expect the Arctic to be mostly melted, the impacts will be apparent in the world long before most of the ice is lost. Barber said the warming of the Arctic influenced the jet stream, which then causes warm air to move further north.
Barber is the Research Chair in Arctic Science at the University of Manitoba as well as Director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science.
Last year Barber discovered thin ice in the Arctic can electromagnetically "trick" satellites, resulting in false reports on the thickness of the ice.
In related news, activists were upset that G7 Finance Ministers, meeting in Iqaluit, refused to put global warming on the agenda. Pew Environmental Group said the warming of the Arctic could cost the world $2.4 trillion.
More about Arctic ice, Melting, Arctic, Professor david barber, Ecosystem collapse
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