Scientists: Data Suggest Arctic Warming
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Tue Dec 10 16:27:42 MST 2002
Sun Dec 8, 9:02 AM ET
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By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The northernmost reaches of the
Earth are warming, reducing the sea ice across the
Arctic Ocean, melting the ice sheet in Greenland and
spreading shrubs into the Alaskan tundra, scientists
Taken individually, the changes only suggest the
region's climate is undergoing a warming trend.
Together, they provide dramatic evidence the change is
real, a panel of scientists said during at a meeting
of the American Geophysical Union.
"If you look at all the data sets together, they do
provide compelling evidence something is changing over
a great area," said Larry Hinzman, of the University
of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Natural variability may be behind the changes, but
human activity might also be to blame, scientists
A new five-year research plan presented this week by
scientists and government officials meeting in
Washington, D.C., asserts that people clearly are
agents of environmental change, though it is still
unclear how much human activity contributes.
President Bush (news - web sites) wants industry to
voluntarily cut smokestack and tailpipe emissions of
carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that
scientists believe are leading to a global rise in
Evidence of the rise can be seen across the Arctic
already, scientists said Saturday.
Greenland is experiencing a warm spell unseen since
the 1930s. Satellite data show the greatest area of
melt across its mammoth ice sheet in 24 years of
measurements occurred this year.
Since 1979, the melt area has grown by 16 percent and
is affecting higher and higher elevations.
Across the Arctic Ocean, the floating mantle of ice
that covers it throughout much of the year shrank to
record levels this summer, said Mark Serreze, also of
the University of Colorado. In September, sea ice
extent was 4 percent lower that that seen in any
previous September since monitoring began in 1978.
Changes in Arctic atmospheric and marine circulation
patterns are partly responsible, but depletion of the
ozone layer due to pollution may also play a role,
On land, too, scientists note changes that suggest
temperatures are rising. Shrubs are pushing farther
northward, growing in areas of tundra that were void
of trees as little as 50 years ago, said F. Stuart
Chapin III of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
"The real question is, is this recent trend unusual,
is this recent trend cause for concern that we are
having an effect? The answer seems to be yes," Serreze
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