Feedback Loops in Arctic Warming

Last week, NASA’s Earth Observatory website posted the following map showing global temperature anomalies in May, 2010:

Earth Observatory notes:

Temperature anomalies in May continued a much longer trend. GISS compared the January–May mean surface temperature anomalies for 2010 to those of 2005 and 1998 (the two warmest years on record). January–May anomalies show 2010 to be the warmest out of 131 years (2005 is the fourth warmest and 1998 is the fifth warmest). Moreover, Arctic temperature anomalies are especially pronounced, and have been since the turn of the twenty-first century.

“Ongoing temperature anomalies like these are strong evidence of the Arctic amplification of global climate change,” says Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The Arctic environment is very vulnerable to warming because of feedbacks that amplify the initial change. Sea ice retreat and snow melt reduce Earth’s albedo,which can lead to increased warmth and further melting. Scambos explains that, although the Northern Hemisphere experienced significant snowfall in early 2010, spring melt was rapid, exposing land surfaces to sunlight sooner than usual.

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