The Role of Ice in the Ocean: Pt. III: Shrinking Ice: Impacts


NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

NOAA Climate Program Office

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

CIRESNational Snow and Ice Data Center

NASA's Operation Ice Bridge

The Hidden Ocean, Arctic 2005 Exploration

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Benjamin Jones - USGS

Footage Search - Daniel Zatz, Ernie Kovacs

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As Arctic ice continues to melt, it will cause ripple effects across the planet. When the polar regions warm, even just a degree, it disturbs atmospheric and oceanic patterns.

The patterns of the jet stream will be affected, which may lead to more extreme summer and winter weather events in Europe, Asia, and North America. Not only will our weather change, but sea level will rise too.

Sea ice melt itself does not cause sea levels to rise because the ice is already in the water. But the melting of ice on a land surface, like Greenland, does because new water is flowing into the ocean. In addition, as ocean water warms, it expands, which also raises sea level.

Warmer air temperatures will accelerate the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, which contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than 20 feet.

Sea ice creates a unique ecosystem that supports millions of plants and animals, from krill and ice algae to cod and walruses. Both the topside and underside of the ice provide places for animals to hunt, hide, rest, mate, and give birth.

Without sea ice, arctic plants and animals must either adapt or migrate. If they can't, they will go extinct.

If that isn't enough, people who live in coastal communities within the Arctic Circle are also battling erosion along their coastlines.

Sea ice serves as a buffer against wave action. Without it, the wind blows across a larger region of open water, resulting in stronger winds and bigger waves that erode the shoreline.

These communities must relocate inland or their homes and land could be washed out to sea.

For ice in the Arctic, it's a race against time. If humans do not change what we are doing to the global climate, the ice will continue to disappear and life as we know it will be altered.