By the Blouin News Business staff

Arctic sea ice free fall is mirror image of carbon dioxide ascent

by in Global Economy.

In this handout satellite composite image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS),  satellite images of polar ice sheets taken in August 2001 (L) and August 2007 show the retreating ice in the Beaufort Sea during the summer in the Arctic Ocean.

A handout satellite composite show images of polar ice sheets taken in August 2001 (L) and August 2007 exhibits the retreating ice in the Beaufort Sea during the summer in the Arctic Ocean. U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images

The amount of Arctic sea ice has plummeted in recent decades – a bold manifestation of the rise in temperature resulting from the rapid increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. After staying below 300 parts per million (ppm) for some 800,000 years, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere skyrocketed as humans started burning more and more fossil fuels. In 2013, atmospheric CO2 averaged 396 ppm.

Late Summer Arctic Sea Ice Extent and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration, 1000-2013

Carbon dioxide traps heat, reducing the amount escaping into space, thereby warming the globe. Together with other heat-trapping gases, the additional CO2 has so far raised the Earth’s temperature by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century. The extra heat is melting snow and ice around the world, including the Arctic sea ice, changing the face of the planet as we know it. For some 1,500 years the late summertime size of the North Pole’s ice cap fluctuated narrowly around 10 million square kilometers; in recent summers, ice covered half that area. The ice pack is expected to keep shrinking as temperatures continue to rise.

— Emily E. Adams

Data and additional resources available at www.earthpolicy.org