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Impacts of a Disappearing Arctic Sea Cover

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Nigel Bennee.

Professor Wadhams will explain how the sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean has been undergoing significant changes in recent years, culminating in the virtual collapse during this past summer when its area shrank to the lowest level ever recorded. This thinning of the ice layers in the Arctic, which began in 1950, has been monitored by various techniques, including satellites and upward-looking sonar from submarines and unmanned vehicles in the area. The volume of this polar ice cover is now less than 30 per cent of its size since the 1980s. The reduction of the summer sea ice cover will have some advantages, such as polar navigation and oil exploration. However, its overwhelming impact is to accelerate global warming, perhaps by a large factor. This occurs because of the albedo feedback effect by which bright, reflective surface is replaced by a dark absorptive one. This in turn could lead to a potentially more disastrous effect whereby methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, would be realised in significant amounts from the seabed as offshore permafrost melts due to the warmer sea temperatures which are now made possible by the reduction of the sea ice cover.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Society for the Application of Research (CSAR) series.

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