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December 8 2012

2012: The End of the Arctic Era


“2012 has been an astounding year,” said Jason Box, who studies Greenland at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University. It was the warmest summer in 170 years, he said, and the vast extent of melting ice seems to indicate something has fundamentally changed. “This year Greenland crossed a threshold. We can expect Greenland to be melting across its entire surface from now on.”

The loss of all this ice in the Arctic is not simply a consequence of global warming, however, it also adds to the problem. Ice and snow are terrific reflectors that keep a lot of solar energy from being trapped in Earth's atmosphere. When ice melts, darker ground and waters are exposed and absorb that sunlight.

“The Arctic is one of the Earth's mirrors and that mirror is breaking,” said researcher Donald Perovich of Dartmouth College.

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