Melting Ice, Raging Fires: Summer In The Arctic, Courtesy Of Climate Change
With David Folkenflik
In the Arctic, a warming planet is accelerating the loss of sea ice and raising the stakes for the region.
Andrew Revkin, director of the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He has covered environmental and human sustainability for more than 30 years, including from 1995 to 2016 at The New York Times. (@Revkin)
Julie Brigham-Grette, glacial geologist and professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (@UMassGeo), where she co-directs the Joseph Hartshorn Quaternary Laboratory.
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USA Today: “Thanks to climate change, parts of the Arctic are on fire. Scientists are concerned” — “It’s the opposite of hell freezing over: Satellite images are showing areas of the Arctic catching fire.
“From eastern Siberia to Greenland to Alaska, wildfires are burning. While it isn’t uncommon for these areas to see wildfires, there is cause for concern now, Thomas Smith, an assistant professor in environmental geography at the London School of Economics, told USA TODAY.
“‘The magnitude is unprecedented in the 16-year satellite record,’ said Smith. ‘The fires appear to be further north than usual, and some appear to have ignited peat soils.’
“What they’re looking for in the satellite images, Smith said, are hot spots across a very large area that can indicate peat fires. Peat fires – unlike regular forest fires, which last only an hour or so before moving on – last for days or months. The longevity of these fires is because peat burns down into the soil.”
Washington Post: “2°C: Beyond the limit: Extreme climate change has arrived in America” — “Before climate change thawed the winters of New Jersey, this lake hosted boisterous wintertime carnivals. As many as 15,000 skaters took part, and automobile owners would drive onto the thick ice. Thousands watched as local hockey clubs battled one another and the Skate Sailing Association of America held competitions, including one in 1926 that featured 21 iceboats on blades that sailed over a three-mile course.
“In those days before widespread refrigeration, workers flocked here to harvest ice. They would carve blocks as much as two feet thick, float them to giant ice houses, sprinkle them with sawdust and load them onto rail cars bound for ice boxes in New York City and beyond.
“New Jersey’s average temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees Celsius since 1895 — double the average for the Lower 48 states.’These winters do not exist anymore,’ says Marty Kane, a lawyer and head of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.
“That’s because a century of climbing temperatures has changed the character of the Garden State. The massive ice industry and skate sailing association are but black-and-white photographs at the local museum. And even the hardy souls who still try to take part in ice fishing contests here have had to cancel 11 of the past dozen competitions for fear of straying onto perilously thin ice and tumbling into the frigid water.”
Time: “Siberian Wildfires and Heatwaves in Alaska: How the Arctic Is Nearing a Point of No Return” — “Many of the globe’s far northern regions have been experiencing extreme weather events over the past two months. Plumes of smoke have been picked up by satellites from wildfires across Alaska and Siberia and Greenland has experienced rapid ice loss as usually frigid regions have experienced heatwaves and record temperatures.
“As the Arctic faces extreme weather events caused by climate change, the events could have ripple effects that accelerate temperature increases across the world, according to scientists and experts.
“‘The basic chemistry and the basic physics of how the atmosphere absorbs heat — there’s no path where you can imagine that the Arctic is going to start to cool off again,’ says Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist and post doctoral fellow at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“‘Cold air has to come from somewhere, cold air doesn’t just magically appear, and that somewhere has to be accounted for in the entire energy balance of the Earth. Right now the whole Earth has just warmed up,’ Brettschneider tells TIME. ‘It would take a dramatic reversal of the chemical composition of the atmosphere.’ ”
Adam Waller produced this hour for broadcast.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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