When we hear the word 'Arctic', we often conjure images of a stark white, windswept place where it is forever winter. But the truth is, winter is thawing sooner than expected as the Arctic regions have been experiencing global warming more drastically than almost anywhere else on Earth.
As the majority of the Arctic is comprised of sea water from the Arctic Ocean, rising temperatures means sea ice all over the area have been melting dramatically. This causes water levels to increase faster than expected, and decreasing the total land mass of the Arctic.
2016 is lining up to win the dubious award of lowest recorded winter ice ever. If the trend continues, in a couple of decades summer heat will melt all of the Arctic sea ice. To make matters worse, something is currently at play called Arctic Amplification.
Arctic Amplification occurs when ice reflects about 90% of the sunlight it receives. But when that ice is absent as it has already melted away, the darker waters reflect only 10% of sunlight. As a result, the absorbed sunlight warms up water faster, melting yet more ice, and causing a vicious cycle.
Thawing Land, too
The physical consequences of global warming in the Arctic are not only limited to ice. Thawing land can result in severe erosion, as the ground is not able to stay frozen and ends up shifting. Villages and roads are all routinely damaged by erosion, making it dangerous for trucks carrying fuel and food to travel across the land to make deliveries.
Millions of dollars have already been spent, and many millions more will be needed in order to build protective reinforcements for natives Alaskan communities. For some of them, uprooting the entire village and relocating is the only option.
Animals of the Arctic
However, one of the most damaging threats of global warming is the loss of habitat for the wildlife of the Arctic.
Polar bears rely on sea ice to travel and hunt seal, their main prey. Shrinking of ice have made it more difficult for the bears to survive and many die of starvation or even drowning. Other marine mammals, like the walrus and leopard seals need the ice as a resting platform used between bouts of feeding. Many of the younger mammals end up drowning due to having no place to rest while out in the ocean.
The Arctic fox lives in the coastal areas along the Arctic Ocean. It is threatened by the changing ice patterns, as well as having fewer carnivores, like the polar bears, to scavenge half-eaten prey from.
What Can We Do?
It's tempting to bury your face in your hands and just hope that somehow everything will work out in the end. But it won't if we don't step up and fight back however we can. The best action we can take to slow down the pace of global warming is to recycle all the paper, plastic, glass and aluminium you use.
Have a separate bin at home to throw these items in, and once a week, bring them down to the recycling bin. There's no excuse as every HDB blocks has a recycling bin since 2014. You can check the ones nearest to your home here.
By recycling, you are helping to lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which leads to improving air and water quality, as well as to preserve landfill space. Remember, change begins with you.