Rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap could trigger 19 different “tipping points” that could lead to catastrophic climate impacts around the world, scientists reported last week with the release of the Arctic Resilience Report.
Arctic temperatures are currently 20°C above normal, and Arctic sea ice is at the lowest extent ever reported for this time of year.
“The warning signals are getting louder,” said co-author Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute. The phenomena documented in the report “also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”
The tipping points identified in the report included: growth of tundra vegetation that would absorb more heat than snow or ice; increased Arctic methane releases; ocean warming due to shifts in snow distribution; and the collapse of key Arctic fisheries.
“These are very serious problems, very serious changes are happening, but they are still poorly understood,” Carson said. “We need more research to understand them. A lot of the major science is done by the U.S.”
Which means that cutting back NASA’s science research, as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has proposed, “would be a huge mistake,” he added. “It would be like ripping out the aeroplane’s cockpit instruments while you are in mid-flight.”