There will soon be no need to learn the skills of living with or on ice. There soon won’t be any ice. Ice skating and skiing will be skills of the past.
In 1847 the Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, across the ice lands of the North Canadian Arctic Ocean, ended in disaster with all hands lost.
A passage, there are several, was found by the Amundsden Expedition in 1906. Not until 2009 was there any regular shipping through the Pasage. By now (2017) some three hundred ships have sailed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the Arctic Ocean. The Ocean has been ice free in its southern latitudes throughout the summer for the past few years. This summer it is probable that the ice will melt completely, even at the North Pole!
There are many implications to an ice free Arctic Ocean. Rise in overall sea level world wide will be negligible because frozen seas occupy much the same volume as those that aren’t frozen. Ice being lighter than water floats, its density being such that most of an iceberg is below the surface. Liquid or solid the volume at 0° is much the same. However, as the seas generally rise in temperature and water expands on heating, sea level rises are predicted with global warming.
Ice on land, such at the South Pole, Siberia and up mountains is melting much slower than sea ice as it is on land at subzero temperatures. The sea was not frozen solid at the North Pole. The structure of H2O conglomerates changes at different subzero temperatures and over long periods of time. Floating ice masses protected the sea water below from sunlight by reflection back into space.
The Arctic ice was a vast white skull cap on the globe of Earth that reflected sunlight, with its heating effect, back into space. For increasingly long periods of time each year that cooling effect is being reduced and with no ice will be lost completely.
The importance of this in areas of permafrost can not be over stated. Vegetation traps carbon dioxide, which is why burning fossil fuels causes global warming. The carbon dioxide trapped in coal and oil by vegetation hundreds, thousands, millions of years ago is released in a short period of time. But more recent decaying vegetation that has been frozen also has trapped carbon dioxide, which is released as permafrosted land surfaces thaw.
There is further global warming effect from permafrosted land being thawed out as methane is released. A molecule of methane has 23 times the effect on global warming than a molecule of carbon dioxide does. Animals release methane as their food is rapidly decomposed in their guts. Humans as members of the animal kingdom contribute their share of methane when they fart and shit.
Life systems are a complex of inorganic and organic inter reactions. The balance maintained for millions of years has allowed the evolution of almost endless varieties of plants and animals.
The symbiosis between plants and animals is a fundamental factor in the evolution of higher forms of plant and animal life. Mobility demands high oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide exhaust, whilst static plants consume little oxygen for transpiration but photosynthesis demands high carbon dioxide consumption. The seas absorb excesses of gases in the atmosphere and for thousands of years have maintained proportions of gases more or less constant.
Life systems are a complex of inorganic and organic inter reactions. The balance maintained for millions of years has allowed the evolution of plants and animals. None of these balances are stable any more. Hence climate change in temperate regions, global warming in equatorial ones and loss of the Arctic Ice Cap.
Acknowledged with thanks: A FAREWELL TO ICE A REPORT FROM THE ARCTIC by Peter Wadhams is essential reading. The Andy-Mai photograph is of ice melting in northern Iceland from the Unsplash collection.