The impact of climate change on the Arctic is incredibly disproportionate compared to the rest of the planet. Indeed, the far north is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the Earth, and there are several environmental factors that further endanger the balance in this important climate system. The most essential of these factors are called “feedback loops.” A feedback loop is an interaction that uses its own initial output as the input for the next cycle around, compounding the effects of the cycle repeatedly. In the Arctic, a feedback loop works the same way in that whatever is the outcome of an environmental interaction is the input for the start of the next interaction in that cycle.
Perhaps the most classic example of such a process in the Arctic is the albedo feedback loop. This loop begins with the heating of the atmosphere as a result of an abundance of greenhouse gases. The gases trap radiation inside the Earth’s atmosphere instead of allowing them to escape into space, consequently, the Earth gets warmer. The next step in the loop is the melting of ice in the Arctic. When this ice melts, it exposes the sea beneath it. Open ocean is significantly better at storing heat than ice, so the water gets warmer as a result. This in turn causes more ice to melt, which further exposes more ocean so that the process can continue. This leads the cycle back to the beginning, except this time there’s more open ocean than before, inviting the cycle to escalate.
Now, one may wonder how this dangerous feedback loop in the Arctic could affect them. Although the Arctic may seem isolated and distant, its impacts are far reaching. This feedback has global implications because the Arctic interacts with the rest of the planet through many means. For instance, when the Arctic gets progressively warmer (like in this feedback loop), it alters the global air circulation pattern, which can impact the temperature and precipitation around the globe. On top of this, an adjustment to the global air circulation also means an adjustment to expected weather patterns. This shift in weather patterns and global temperature can have immense repercussions, one of the major consequences being dry or wet conditions in some areas that can harm important ecosystems and agricultural lands. It should be evident, then, that the rapid changes in the Arctic have global implications worthy of attention and research, especially changes brought about by hazardous feedback loops. It’s imperative to be wary of climatic impacts around the world, as there is a large chance that it will affect people’s everyday lives in some way.
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© 2019 Weather Forecaster Cole Bristow