By Kenneth R. Weiss
5:59 PM EST, December 5, 2012
A fast-changing Arctic broke records for loss of sea ice and spring snow cover this year, as well as summertime melt of the Greenland ice sheet, federal scientists reported Wednesday.
“The Arctic is an extremely sensitive part of the world,” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As it warms, she said, “we see the results with less snow and sea ice, greater ice sheet melt and changing vegetation.”
Speaking at the fall meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Lubchenco and other scientists unveiled the annual update of the Arctic Report Card, a collaboration of more than 140 scientists that summarizes ways the Arctic continues to grow warmer and greener.
Among this year’s findings:
The retreat of snow and ice has come even though air Arctic temperatures were not unusually high this year compared with the last decade, the scientists reported.
This shows the self-perpetuating momentum of warming, they said. As the Arctic loses more highly reflective snow and ice, the warming rays of the sun get absorbed by the darker ground or exposed ocean waters.
“This increases the capacity to store heat within the Arctic system, which enables more melting -- a self-reinforcing cycle,” said Martin Jeffries, co-editor of the report card and a science advisor to the Office of Naval Research.
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