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Snow in the spring? Growing ice in Antarctica? Yep, blame global warming

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Are you freezing in the middle of spring? Thank global warming. Ugh, not again, right? According to climatologists, two counter-intuitive phenomenon, the expansion of sea ice in the Antarctic and a cold snap in the United States could be blamed on global warming, however the conclusions still require additional peer review to confirm.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Two unusual weather patterns are being blamed on global warming, although they both more involve snow and ice, not less. Americans in the eastern portion of the United States recently endured an unusual spate of cold weather, which brought freezing temperatures and snow across much of the country in late March.

Meanwhile scientists from the Netherlands are proposing in a peer-reviewed paper in the online journal, Nature Geoscience, a reason why the sea ice in Antarctica is actually expanding despite global warming.

The reason is because consistent with global warming, the planet is harboring increasing amounts of solar energy, especially in the northern hemisphere. While the average global temperature will increase over time, individual spots can expect to see unusual and extreme weather with greater frequency of occurrence.

Specifically, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) melting Arctic sea ice is disrupting the jet stream, weakening it and causing extreme weather to linger for longer periods over the United States. That means slower moving storms and more snow.

The Arctic Ocean itself is also warming as it stores up more energy than at any time in modern, recorded history.

Arctic ice has already lost 80 percent of its cover and the entire Arctic is expected to be entirely ice-free during the summer in 2020, just seven years from now. The North Pole will soon be water, rather than ice and much of the arctic will be safe for navigation by ships during summer months.

Researchers have also found a way to explain what could be causing Antarctic sea ice to expand while global temperatures rise. Researchers from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute say that while Arctic sea ice has been shrinking, Antarctic ice has been expanding at the rate of almost 2 percent per year since 1985.

The cause is-melting ice. As Antarctic ice melts, it creates a layer of freshwater on the surface of the ocean around the continent. Freshwater freezes more easily than saltwater, and therefore we observe an expansion of the ice.

The result isn't conclusive, and is subject to dispute even between global warming researchers. It will require further study to confirm.

It also raises another very interesting question. If Antarctic ice is expanding because of melting ice, then why isn't the same thing happening on top of the globe? The answer has to do with the difference between land ice and sea ice.

Ice which forms from snow accumulated on land is known as land ice. Ice which forms atop salt-water is sea ice.

Antarctic land ice has accumulated over thousands of years, forming glaciers that are now melting into the sea. As they melt, their freshwater runoff collects on the sea surface where it pools because it is less dense than saltwater. The freshwater freezes more easily than saltwater and this is what is causing Antarctic ice to expand. Basically, the ice is shifting from a massive glacial reservoirs on land, and reconstituting itself at sea during the winter, before melting back into the ocean and contributing to the global rise in sea-level.

Arctic ice however, is sea ice. It doesn't form as easily and when it melts, the seas water beneath it absorbs yet more energy, making it increasingly difficult for ice to reform.

The end result will be a warm, watery Arctic, while the Antarctic region will continue to see ice growth as freshwater melts off glaciers there.

Meanwhile, scientists are predicting the greening of the Arctic land regions with tundra defrosting and giving way to more plants and trees.

Climate change is a real phenomenon, and has been observed in the historical record fluctuating over millions of years. There have been times in Earth's history where CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have been more substantial than now, and times when the planet has been much warmer and wetter than now.

The difference is the pace of that change. Global warming, caused by human activities is causing the temperature to change more rapidly than many species can adapt. This is leading to extinctions and significant disruptions to the environment.

Both people and animals will have to adapt over the coming decades to life on a warmer planet. This will happen because there is no choice, and humans in particular, are very adaptable. However, the cost we pay in the meantime and the ultimate severity of the crisis over the coming centuries is for us to decide, right now.

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