A study being presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union claims to have found the first concrete evidence of ‘arctic amplification’ – the phenomenon in which the loss of sea ice exposes water that reflects less sunlight than the ice did, thus causing further warming:
Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover.
As with many of the other things happening in the Arctic, the phenomenon is not unexpected but the timing is. Partly, that reflects the imperfect (or totally absent) integration of feedback effects into climatic models.
As with so much other Arctic news, one can only hope that this will be a reminder of the urgency of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. It is possible that doing so is more urgent than addressing the ongoing financial crisis and, from a long-term perspective, it is certainly a lot more important.